The ING Renault F1 Team enjoyed a busy and productive opening day of practice at the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix today in Monte-Carlo. Both drivers completed nearly seventy laps during the three hours of free practice, running through busy technical programmes as they tracked the ever-improving circuit conditions and fine-tuned the set-up of the R27. They evaluated the hard and soft compound Bridgestone Potenza tyres available this weekend, and were both able to make good progress in improving the handling balance of the car.
The only hiccups during the day were an accident for Giancarlo in turn 1 at the end of the morning session, which damaged his chassis and forced him to run in Heikki's intended race car during the afternoon (because, in line with team policy which allocates the T-car to one of the drivers during Friday practice, Heikki was using the T-car for today's sessions). Equally, Heikki's final timed lap on fresh tyres was hindered by traffic, which left him unrepresentatively low in the timesheets, but it is nevertheless worth nothing that he was the only rookie not to crash on the opening day of practice. Overall, though, the day was encouraging, and gave a solid foundation for the team's work on Saturday.
Giancarlo Fisichella: This was a better first day for us than at recent races. The car balance was consistent, and I was feeling very comfortable out there. The only problem was that the tyres were graining quite badly in the very low grip conditions, but we are confident that will disappear as the circuit conditions improve. I have to say thank you to my mechanics, who did a fantastic job at lunchtime to swap my chassis over, after I damaged my first one with a small crash at Ste Dévote. They made it possible for me to run in P2, and now we have a really good starting point for Saturday morning.
Heikki Kovalainen: It wasn't a very spectacular day for me. Monaco is a fantastic challenge for all the drivers, and to be honest, the car felt pretty good in terms of the balance. But ultimately, the times weren't quite there today, so we need to work tonight and tomorrow to improve things. I didn't get my last flying lap in during the second session because I was held up in traffic, so for sure there is more performance to come. It was a solid start for me, and I am optimistic that we can improve a lot on Saturday.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: It was a normal, fraught Thursday for the team in Monaco, but it was a day from which we can draw many positives. Giancarlo's accident this morning damaged his original race chassis, and this will be replaced for Saturday. However, for this afternoon's session, it forced us into some car-swapping, and the mechanics once again succeeded in preparing the cars faultlessly under considerable pressure. Out on track, Giancarlo's performance underlined the improvements we believe we are making at the moment, and with more, we hope, to come on Saturday, we are feeling more confident for qualifying than at previous races. Heikki's day was one of ups and downs, and unfortunately his new tyre run at the end of practice was compromised by traffic. Looking beyond the headline times, though, he and Giancarlo were lapping in very similar times on old tyres, and that leaves us encouraged by both drivers' performances ahead of Saturday.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Track Operations: Thursday in Monaco is always about maximising track time, and every team shared our approach in attempting to complete as many laps as possible during the three hours of running today. In terms of our technical programmes, it was a good day as we completed our planned work, and did not encounter any bad surprises. The focus, as always, was on fine-tuning engine mapping, shift points and cooling levels to ensure the engines will be as robust and high-performing as possible on Sunday afternoon.
To check out our Monaco practice gallery, click here