The ING Renault F1 Team delivered a disappointing qualifying performance this afternoon at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Heikki Kovalainen failed to progress past the first knockout round after an accident on his first flying lap disrupted his session, while Giancarlo Fisichella did not fully capitalise on the improved performance of the R27 during the final round of qualifying, and will line up in ninth position on the grid for tomorrow's race. Heikki will also observe an engine change penalty following a sudden failure during this morning's practice session, and will therefore start from P22, subject to any penalties for other cars. While neither grid position is as strong as the team had hoped after seeing an improvement in the car's relative performance during the weekend, the Canadian Grand Prix is always an incident-filled race, where overtaking is possible and safety car periods a strong possibility on a circuit with very little run-off. As ever, the team will race to its maximum and for Giancarlo in particular, the car's competitiveness on longer runs means he is optimistic of making up positions during the race.
Giancarlo Fisichella: I have had a great weekend so far, which makes it even more unfortunate that I didn't have a very good final lap in the third part of qualifying. The car felt really strong in Q2, and I still had some lap-time left in hand, so I was feeling very confident of a strong starting position. But on my final timed lap, I made a mistake in turn 6 – and then was pushing really hard to try and make the time back up, and lost the car again in turns 10 and 13. We were expecting to start from higher up the grid than P9, but I think we can stay positive for tomorrow. The car is very competitive on the harder tyre, which is likely to be the main race tyre for most of the teams, and I think we have a very strong pace. I am confident that I can turn the situation around in the race.
Heikki Kovalainen: The first thing I want to say is thank you to my mechanics: they have worked so hard all weekend, changing chassis overnight, the engine this morning, and then making repairs during the first part of qualifying after I hit the wall. They have done a really incredible job, and I am just sorry that I couldn't pay them back with a better qualifying performance. I went into the session knowing that I would have an engine penalty, but I was determined to push right to the limit to get as far up the grid as I could. I hit the kerbs hard in turn 4 on my timed lap and lost the rear end, which damaged the wing and the floor. The team repaired as much as they could, but it was hard to have full confidence in the car after that. I hoped I had done enough to get through to the second round, but it wasn't to be. There is no point pretending that it won't be a tough afternoon tomorrow, but we knew I would be starting a long way back, and adjusted the set-up accordingly. I will have to be aggressive all through the race, and try to make up as many positions as I can.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: Giancarlo has had an extremely good weekend and looked competitive through every session, so ultimately his final qualifying position of P9 is a bit disappointing. Several small mistakes on his final timed lap meant he failed to improve his time, and put paid to his chances of a better starting position. However, bearing in mind his pace in the other sessions, he should still have a good race. Heikki's accident yesterday and engine failure today have limited his running on a circuit that is new to him. In trying hard to find the limit during qualifying today, he slightly overstepped the mark. The mechanics did a great job to get him out again, but his final lap was also only his first lap of the weekend on the soft tyre. The last word, though, goes to our mechanics. They have experienced another very hard weekend, with an unscheduled chassis change yesterday followed by gearbox and engine changes today, plus the urgent repairs during qualifying. They have taken all of this in their stride, and performed magnificently.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Track Operation: We have become accustomed to talking about normal, trouble-free days – and unfortunately, this was anything but. Although we experienced a problem with Heikki's engine at the end of the race in Monaco, our post-race analysis found no problems, and we took the decision to race it here in Canada. The sudden mechanical failure we experienced this morning was unrelated to the incident in Monaco, and we are still working to understand exactly what happened. However, we are confident that this does not present a risk for the other three Renault engines in the field. Giancarlo had a more straightforward day, and showed encouraging pace for much of the qualifying session. We know the car has the potential to perform well tomorrow in race conditions, and we will be hoping to see both drivers make good progress through the field.
To check out our Canada qualifying gallery, click here