China GP: Race notes - Renault


The Renault F1 Team finished a dramatic Chinese Grand Prix in second and third positions this afternoon in Shanghai. Fernando Alonso's second place finish came after a race in which the Spaniard dominated in both the wet and the dry. However, two crucial periods of the race cost him vital track time. The first came at the end of the stint when, after discussions with Fernando and Michelin, the team chose to change the severely worn front tyres only. As Fernando returned to the track, he was unable to regain his previous level of performance – and was rapidly caught by Giancarlo Fisichella and Michael Schumacher behind. As a result of this he elected to stop early for dry tyres and fuel to the finish on lap 35. However, a pit-stop problem when a wheel nut came loose from the gun cost him vital seconds. The team is currently investigating the origin of the problem. After the leaders had stopped, he was 25 seconds behind with 15 laps to go. Although he subsequently closed the deficit rapidly, time ran out before he could catch leader Michael Schumacher. As for team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, he ran competitively on the heaviest fuel load among the front-runners during the opening stint, then led strongly through the middle stages as the circuit dried and Fernando Alonso struggled. He changed to dry tyres on lap 41, and eventually finished third behind his team-mate. This collective performance by both drivers means the Renault F1 Team retakes the lead of the Constructors' Championship from Ferrari by a single point, while Fernando Alonso lies on equal points with Michael Schumacher, with two races remaining. With the two drivers tied for the championship lead, a title showdown in Brazil in three weeks' time is almost certain.

Fernando Alonso: This was a difficult race for the team because we lost a very good opportunity today. I built up a good lead in the first 20 laps, but my front tyres were badly worn – and the conditions were difficult as the track was drying very slowly. We made the decision to change the fronts for a new pair, and it was the wrong one – as we saw with Fisi and Michael, who kept all four tyres on the car and were much quicker. After that, the only thing we could do was go to dry tyres as early as possible – and hope to catch up the time to Michael. In the end, there were not enough laps left. So it was a bad day, but this is a fantastic fight for the championship, and I go to Japan feeling really confident. We had the quickest car today, and we have two more good chances to win. I believe we can do it.

Giancarlo Fisichella: This was a good race for me – and a good result for myself and the team. Finishing third means I go ahead of Massa in the drivers' championship, and the team is leading the constructors' championship again. I started with the biggest fuel load of any car at the front, so the first laps were quite tough – but the conditions came to me really well as the circuit dried. We kept the same set of tyres at the stop, and I was able to be very competitive and pull away from Michael. But when I came out on dry tyres, the track was so slippery – and the tyres weren't at temperature yet. I slid wide, and Michael got past. After that, we turned the engine down to save it for Japan, and made sure of the podium finish. After seeing how the car performed today, we know that we have the performance to win both titles, beginning next weekend in Japan.

Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: We are all very sorry for Fernando. He was simply fantastic today, and dominated in both the wet and the dry. After a performance like that, there is nothing more frustrating than to see a win slip through your fingers. Giancarlo drove well to be on the podium, and his points mean we go back ahead in the constructors' championship. This evening, our main feeling is frustration. Looking further ahead, though, we had the quickest car today and both championships are equal. We know we have the team and the performance to win.

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: We are making no excuses today. This is a race we should have won, because the Renault and its Michelin tyres were dominant in all conditions. The fact we did not do so is intensely frustrating for the entire team. Fernando drove brilliantly from the start, and as we approached the first stop, told us on the radio that his front tyres were very badly worn. In consultation with Fernando and Michelin, we decided to change them – and leave the rears on. It soon became clear that the track was drying quickly, and that the decision had been the wrong one. As a result, we took the risk of stopping very early to switch Fernando to dry tyres – in the hope he would be able to gain time on the leaders. A delay in that pit-stop cost us more time: we know that the nut fell out of the wheel gun, but not yet why. Afterwards, Fernando once again drove fantastically to close in on Michael, but we simply ran out of laps. Giancarlo drove well at the critical points of his race, and was unlucky to lose the lead after his second stop – when he was caught out like many others this afternoon by the slippery track while running a set of dry tyres that were not yet up to temperature. His podium finish, though, gave us the means to re-take the lead in the constructors' championship, and that fact shows that we have the performance to win both titles. The Michelin tyres were superior in the wet and the dry today, and it was easy to get the best out of the car in the changing conditions. We now go to the final races with renewed confidence. Today showed that the Renault is the fastest car out there. We fully intend to make use of it in the final two races of what is proving to be a thrilling title showdown.

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Published: 01/10/2006
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