Fernando Alonso is once again threatening to upset the formbook this weekend after storming to the top of the timesheets in Magny Cours, much to the delight of Renault’s adoring French fans.
The Spaniard used of every inch of the 4.411km Circuit de Nevers as he hustled his improved and upgraded Renault R28 to the top spot in afternoon practice.
A lary moment at the final chicane almost saw Alonso drop his Renault into the wall, right in front of his legions of French supporters, but the 28-year-old somehow held on to his R28 and went on to go quickest of all moments later, albeit on the softer compound tyres.
Only a few hours earlier doubt was being cast over whether Alonso would begin the session after an engine problem had hampered his running in the morning warm up.
“We had a small engine problem at the end of the morning session but my mechanics did a remarkable job to fix the car and we were able to continue our free practice programme this afternoon without any problems,” explained the Spaniard.
“We tried several new elements that we ran in the test last week and everything went well and we completed our programme. Looking ahead to qualifying tomorrow, I think that our level of performance is rather encouraging.”
Although Alonso will be hard-pressed to maintain his advantage over the Ferraris going into qualifying tomorrow, the result is a significant fillip for Renault who have brought a comprehensive upgrade package to France. The upgrade builds on an already solid base with Alonso taking a superb fourth in qualifying at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Nelson Piquet underlined the progress the team has made in recent races with ninth place in practice two, a result that marks an improved personal performance after a dismal run of results.
“The day has gone well,” reflected the Brazilian. We have been able to do a lot of running and as a result collected lots of data, which I hope will allow us to continue improving after we have been through it this evening.”
“We still need to make some small changes to improve the behaviour of the car, but overall I am satisfied with this first day. It’s certainly a good start to the weekend.”