Fernando Alonso has paid tribute to his Renault mechanics for working through the night to fix a split-diffuser on his car, a modification which enabled the Spaniard to plant his car on the front row of the grid for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Renault have struggled to compete in the mid-field at the opening two races of the season and that has partly been to down to the disadvantage of running a regular diffuser.
The French team pre-empted the FIA’s ruling in favour of the controversial split-diffuser on the Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota cars, and developed their own version of the device which they shipped to Shanghai on Friday night.
Fernando Alonso is under no allusions that the overnight work carried out by his the mechanics to accommodate the device puts him in a very strong position for Sunday’s race.
“If you add any new part to the car it makes a big difference in terms of position and we proved it today,” he said. “The team did improve the car and suddenly we are competitive.
“We need to see tomorrow with the fuel loads, but we went into Q3 more or less comfortable and that is something new that we didn’t have in the first two races.”
“I think it has been a strange weekend for us, with a completely new car this morning and we only completed three laps this morning (in practice), so we arrived in qualifying with some doubts,” he said. “A blind qualifying for us because we didn’t know how the car would respond, but we are extremely happy with this result.
“It is a big motivation for the whole team because we have been working flat out for the last three or four weeks.
“Last night, I think it was the same for many teams, the guys only slept one or two hours and after this enormous job you have to deliver when you are in the car. You cannot make a mistake or do anything wrong. I am happy with performance today and that is thanks to the big effort by the team.”
The extent of the advantage of the split-diffuser on the Renault was made clear by Nelson Piquet who, in the sister R29 without the device, languished in seventeenth place.
“Obviously I didn’t have the new parts that Fernando had, but it’s still disappointing not to make it into Q2 as the car was working well this morning and we had made some improvements overnight,” said the Brazilian.
“I know it will be a tough race tomorrow, but hopefully we can make the strategy work so that I can move forward in the race.”
Renault have also followed Ferrari’s lead this weekend by removing their KERS device. Alonso says the team will continue to evaluate the energy-saving boost system.
“I think we did some more analysis to see how the device works in some circuits and we saw that it was time to do a real test (without it),” he said. “And also we had some concerns, we had problems in Malaysia with the rain, it was some water in the system and we know it is not ideal in terms of safety.”
“So for safety reasons and just to do a test we are with no KERS this race.”
Renault’s Technical Director Pat Symonds was similarly delighted with the front row grid slot and praise the team’s efforts.
“Fernando’s front row position is a tribute to the hard work from everyone back at the factory to get the new diffuser on the car following the result of our appeal earlier in the week.”
“It’s working as expected although we had some problems on the bodywork this morning as it burnt slightly, but once again the technicians here did a great job to get it fixed. Now we must get the same equipment for Nelson and give him the chance to move up the grid.”