Fernando Alonso is confident that Renault have made progress during the spring break, but does not believe that the new components on his R28 will yield more than two tenths of a second in lap time improvement.
Analysis carried out by Forumula1.com suggests that such a performance gain is considerably less than the RÃ©gie made last year and is unlikely to catapult the team significantly up the grid.
“I think we made a step forward in terms of competitiveness of the car and we will see this weekend what the result is,â€ the double world champion told the assembled media in Thursday s press conference.
“It was difficult to read times as it was a mix of slick tyre and more or less fuel between the teams, so you know we tried to concentrate on our performance and our car and I think we gained a couple of tenths in the car,â€ added the Spaniard reflecting on testing at Barcelona last week.
Should Alonso s predictions prove to be accurate, Forumula1.com estimates that the gain in lap-time would be at most half that delivered by Renault during last year s spring break ahead of the European season.*
In 2007 Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fissichella were around 1.2 seconds slower than the front-runners in qualifying trim during the same three fly-away races as this year.
Following testing at Barcelona in late April the Enstone-based outfit went on to race at Barcelona, Monaco and Montreal this time only 0.8 seconds slower than the front-runners. And in the second qualifying sessions at Monaco and Montreal, Fissichella lapped sixth and seventh quickest respectively, seven tenths of a slower than the pace-setters.
Not only then, had Renault improved the car in line with the gains the rest of the teams had made, but they had also managed to close the gap. Based on last year, Alonso s latest prediction of an improvement in the region of two tenths of a second is unlikely to bring him out of the mid-field.
Renault s Technical Director Bob Bell however is more optimistic about the extent of the R28 s improvement citing a performance gain of “multiple tenths of a secondâ€:
“We are reasonably confident that the things we are putting on the car will produce a clear and definable performance advantage,â€ he said.
“I think we will also see some more unquantifiable benefits with improvements to the driveability and feel of the car because if we give the drivers more confidence, particularly under braking, they can extract more performance from the car.
“So we can be reasonably confident that it will be a big step forward and that it will be multiple tenths of a second.â€
*Analysis based on qualifying performances in Q2, when the cars are running at optimum fuel levels.