It’s not as bad as it looks, was essentially the argument made by Renault’s Pat Symonds after a troublesome day for both Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet.
Both Renault drivers, along with the rest of the field, had little running time in the wet morning session and when it came to practice two, both Alonso and Piquet were struggling for grip in the low temperatures.
The Gilles Villeneuve circuit is notoriously slippery in the best of times, particularly in the early part of the weekend, and with the morning rain preventing any rubber going down the situation was just as worse come the afternoon.
Alonso twice spun at Turn 2, the cause of so much grief last year when he over-cooked it into the first corner on more than one occasion and was forced to run across the grass to rejoin at the second part of the left-right combination.
On his second visit to the grass on Friday this year, the Spaniard beached his R28 on the kerbing bringing his session to a premature end. Thing’s didn’t get much better for Nelson Piquet in the sister Renault after he suffered a brake problem which left him stranded at the end of the pit lane.
Renault’s director of engineering Pat Symonds has been quick to downplay the significance of the events and sees no reason why the Enstone-based outfit can’t assume its normal place in the pecking order – which is increasingly out of the mid-field and towards the sharp end of the grid – come qualifying later today.
“It’s very difficult to tell anything from today,” commented the Englishman. “Obviously the weather affected the first session and our cars weren’t running at the critical time in the second session. Nelson had a gearbox failure and Fernando a simple spin, but unfortunately the car got grounded on the curbs.”
“Obviously we ran a lot of fuel here because of the critical brake wear, and while we don’t know exactly how competitive we are, there is no reason to believe we are not in our normal position.”
Renault have of course overcome worse problems than those experienced on Friday. Last year Heikki Kovalainen wrote his Renault off in both practice and qualifying leaving the mechanics with their fair share of over-time to get things ready for the race. The Finn eventually managed to scythe his way through the chaos in the race to take a superb fourth place.
Denis Chevrier, Renault’s Head of Engine Track Operations, insists however that the team must make the best of use of the final practice session before qualifying to make up for the loss of running.
“We did not manage to complete our programme today,” explained the Frenchman “although the chance to run on a wet track this morning could be useful considering the weather forecast for the rest of the weekend.”
“The other main aim of the day was to give Nelson the chance to learn the track, but he did not have the best track conditions and then he had a mechanical problem in the second session.
“So we have only been able to collect a limited amount of data, especially in comparison with our competitors. So we must try and make the most of the final free practice session tomorrow morning.”