Fernando Alonso reckons his Renault team can get into the fight for this year's title, despite pace

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    Fernando Alonso reckons his Renault team can get into the fight for this year's title, despite pace

    Post by Ross on 22nd April 2009, 16:02

    Alonso: Renault can return to winning ways

    Comeback: Two-time champ says the team that brought him his titles can get back into the mix

    Fernando Alonso is convinced he can still challenge for a third world title in 2009 following the “incredible” progress Renault has already made with its R29.

    The Enstone-based squad admitted it had been disappointed with its performance at the opening two races, in which its only points finish was a fifth place for Alonso in Australia, but the introduction of an interim double diffuser and new floor in China transformed its fortunes and the Spaniard qualified on the front row.

    And although his chances of achieving a similarly strong result on Sunday were scuppered after the race started behind the safety car – his light fuel load meaning he had to pit early, before eventually finishing ninth – the former world champion took great encouragement from the step forward.

    Indeed while he is already 21 points behind title leader Jenson Button after three races, he believes that he isn’t out of the title mix yet if Renault can continue to improve from this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix onwards.

    “Hopefully we can repeat the performance we showed in China [this weekend] so that we can reach Q3 and fight for points in the race,” he said.

    “It's still an early stage in the year and already the team has made incredible progress, which gives me the belief that we can still fight for the championship.
    “We will have more updates when we get back to Europe, but at this stage in the year it's important that we score as many points as possible at each race so we can be in the fight at the end of the season.”

    Renault’s technical director Bob Bell is equally optimistic that Renault can again vie with the early-season pacesetters with its updated car in qualifying at Sakhir and reckons that should the race stay dry, then it should be able to capitalise on its new-found speed.

    “I think we can be quite confident that we can repeat the sort of performance we showed in China during qualifying as we now have the basic pace in the car,” Bell said.

    “And if we have a dry race, I'm confident that we can bring home the points from the race to match our qualifying performance.”

    Following the FIA’s decision to definitively legalise controversial two-step diffusers last Tuesday, Renault and McLaren reacted immediately to the clarification and introduced initial versions of the concept onto their respective cars in Shanghai.

    The Renault diffuser, which featured on Alonso’s car only from final practice onwards, produced encouraging performance according to Bell, who says the team will now push hard to accelerate its development over the next stage of the season along with other pre-planned upgrades.

    “It certainly lived up to expectations and gave us the gains we expected," he said.

    “There is more to come as the diffuser is a very new area of development and there will be a big push to continue its development over the next few months.

    “We're also working on various upgrades to other parts of the car that we would normally work on at this time of year.”

    The Anglo-French outfit’s chances of achieving a strong result in Bahrain should be aided by the fact that star driver Alonso has an impressive past record at the desert venue.

    The Spaniard holds the record for the most points scored (27) and wins achieved (two, jointly held with Felipe Massa) in the event’s five-year history.

    He knows only too well therefore about the challenges the 3.3-mile circuit presents and says managing brake wear in particular will be one of the keys to a successful weekend.

    “It's a challenging circuit and I have some good memories of my wins there in 2005 and 2006 with Renault,” he said.

    “Because of the circuit's location, it can get quite dusty and the conditions change from lap to lap so you need to be careful, but there are still some good overtaking opportunities, especially into turn one and turn four.

    “It's one of the most demanding circuits on the brakes with lots of big braking zones and so we will look at the wear rates on Friday to make sure we don't have any problems in the race.”

    Source: itv.com/f1

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