The ING Renault F1 Team enjoyed its most successful qualifying session of the season so far this afternoon at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya. For the first time in 2007, both drivers made it through the second knockout round of qualifying and into the top 10 – the first time Heikki Kovalainen has achieved this small milestone. The R27 was handling reasonably well in some of the hottest track conditions we have seen so far this weekend, and the team chose its strategies with a view to achieving a strong race performance, and therefore decided to run its final timed laps on the harder of the two Bridgestone Potenza tyres available this weekend. As always on Saturday afternoon, though, the hard work is still to come, and the team hopes to maintain its stronger form during tomorrow afternoon's Grand Prix.
Heikki Kovalainen: The car felt good straight away in the first part of qualifying, and I thought then that we had a good opportunity to make it into the final round this afternoon. The situation should have been more comfortable in the second part of the session, but I had traffic on both of my timed laps Even so, I think I did a good job today, and got the maximum from the car. It's nice to make it through to the final part of qualifying for the first time, but you don't get any points on Saturday. The big job is still ahead of us, and hopefully we can maintain this strong pace tomorrow afternoon.
Giancarlo Fisichella: We went with the hard tyres in the final part of qualifying, and I think it was a good choice because we have a good strategy for the race. The session this afternoon wasn't perfect for me: I didn't complete my programme this morning during the third practice session, and it meant that I wasn't totally comfortable with the car when I went out for the first laps in qualifying. I thought I had a brake problem on my first run so I aborted it, and that made it quite tight to get past the first round. After that, the performance was more normal even though I didn't have complete confidence in the car, and looking at the times, it seems that the gap to the other teams is a little bit less, so perhaps we have made a step forward. My aim now is to do a good race, and maintain my points-scoring record.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: Considering our start to the 2007 season, getting both of our cars into the top ten represents a small step in the team's recovery. We decided to use the hard tyre in the final part of qualifying as we felt our overall strategy would be improved if we had a new set of soft tyres available for the race tomorrow, rather than a used set.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Track Operations: There were some surprises during this afternoon's qualifying session, and our drivers' performances are among the nice surprises in today's results. Our objective in qualifying is always to squeeze every drop of performance out of the car, in order to give ourselves the best possible chance of making it into Q3. We achieved exactly that today, and were the only team outside of the top three to get both drivers into the top ten. It is a result that shows the team and drivers are performing at the highest level, even if the car's performance is still short of our expectations. The goal for tomorrow's race will be the same: to achieve the maximum our package is capable of, and to try and get both cars home in the points.
To check out our Barcelona qualifying gallery, click here