The Renault F1 Team completed a trouble-free opening day of practice for the 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix in the humid heat of Sepang today. As will become the norm in 2006, running was extremely restricted in the opening practice session, and only marginally less so in the second, as teams limited their mileage in order to find the most effective compromise between the running required for tyre and set-up evaluations, and economising engine mileage.
The two Renault drivers completed just installation laps in the opening session, before one short run and one long run in the second hour of practice. They immediately found the R26 to be well-balanced and performing well in the high-speed corners, while the Michelin tyres seemed well suited to the tropical conditions, delivering very consistent performance. The set-ups still require fine-tuning this evening, but the team has had a promising start to the weekend, with the cars finishing well up the timesheets.
Fernando Alonso: We did our job today and the R26 seems competitive. Sepang is a great circuit to drive, one of my favourites, and I was very happy to be out there this afternoon. The heat is really difficult – not just in the car, but in the garage when you stop and there is no ventilation while you are in the car. We have made the usual modifications, but as a driver, you just need to be ready for it, and well prepared. The car is easy to drive here, but we still need more grip and some small changes to the balance. But I think we have a good starting point for the rest of the weekend.
Giancarlo Fisichella: I didn't put a clean lap together on new tyres today, but the car was very consistent indeed on the long run this afternoon. We made some adjustments during the second session, and we have got more to do tonight, but we are definitely moving in the right direction. The car is very stable in the high speed corners, but we need to eliminate a little oversteer in the slower parts. Overall, though, the Renault is consistent and quick here. I am happy this afternoon.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: We once again limited our running owing to the increased mileage required in the new qualifying session. We fully achieved our objectives for the day, with both R26 chassis enjoying a consistent handling balance from the first run onwards. The engines and tyres are both performing well in the very hot conditions.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Trackside Engine Operations: Engine builders like nothing more than trouble-free days at the track, and that's exactly what we experienced in Sepang. The RS26 V8 is running well, and as usual, our Friday programme consisted of fine-tuning the mapping, and ensuring the engines were coping with the demands of the high temperatures. We obtained the answers we wanted, and have experienced no incidents during the day. It has been a solid start to the weekend.