The ING Renault F1 Team began its preparations for the Monaco Grand Prix today as both Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet completed busy programmes in free practice. As expected, the track conditions were poor in the morning and offered little grip, but as the day developed the track began to rubber-in, allowing the team to complete tyre evaluation and some set-up work. Both drivers made contact with the barriers in the afternoon, but overall the team has made a solid start and remains confident of a competitive showing over the weekend.
Fernando Alonso: Overall the two sessions have gone well for us. The track was very dirty this morning, but we made good progress with our programme and the car reacted well to the changes we made. We seem to be on the pace in the long runs, but we must now improve our performance over a single lap because qualifying here is vital. That is where we will put our efforts.
Nelson Piquet: Monaco is a difficult circuit and so I spent the day learning and familiarising myself with the track. We were able to evaluate some different set-ups, but I am still missing a bit of speed and I did not feel totally comfortable in the car. I hope that by Saturday I can make some progress with my engineers, so that I can make the most of the final free practice session. Then I need to approach qualifying calmly, especially as it's more important here than anywhere else.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: A normal first day of practice in Monaco. Nelson covered a lot of laps to try and get comfortable with the circuit, although his run on soft tyres was interrupted when he hit the wall. With Fernando we were able to work on set-up as much as you can in Monaco, as it is always quite difficult to understand the car here. His progress looks good and apart from some slight damage we have had a successful day.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Track Operations: Today we saw that finding the limits is not easy and you can quickly find yourself in the barriers. That was the case for our two drivers, which cost us a bit of track time. So we have not been able to completely finish our preparation, but the data we have gathered should be sufficient and we will add to that on Saturday morning before qualifying. As far as the engine is concerned, Monaco is a circuit that we know well and so we haven't had any big surprises.