Pat Symonds is adamant that Renault can challenge for race wins when the 2009 Formula One season kicks off in Melbourne next week, despite enduring a difficult start to pre-season testing.
Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet both struggled with the handling and balance of the new R29 when it was launched at the first test of the year in Portugal. But after a series of modifications both drivers now report a more responsive car.
Renault’s technical director, Pat Symonds, says he is expecting a strong start to the season as a result and he is confident that the new car is capable of challenging for race wins.
“The target I set at the beginning of the season is always the same: to be winning races and challenging for the championship it would be wrong to have any other intention,” he said.
“However, when you start tempering your expectations with reality, you may moderate that target a little bit. Nonetheless, I do believe that we’ve got a car that is good enough to challenge for wins and when you combine that with our drivers and the team’s ability to go racing, I’m fairly confident we can deliver a strong start to the season.”
Speaking about Renault’s hopes at next week’s Australian Grand Prix Symonds added: “I think we’re as prepared as we can be, but with the new testing regime we will arrive in Melbourne with fewer kilometres on the car than we would normally have achieved in previous seasons.”
“The weather has also been quite poor during pre-season testing, which has held us back a little, but when the car has been running it has been working well and I’m not too worried.”
“At our first test in Portugal we only had one dry day and initially the car was quite difficult to drive, especially as we were getting used to the new aerodynamic characteristics.”
“But as we’ve introduced the updates in preparation for Melbourne, we’ve moved towards a pretty driveable car that both Fernando and Nelson are comfortable with and it’s now behaving much more as we want it to.”