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Symonds springs to Fisichella’s defence 03 Apr 2006

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 2 April 2006

Among the most memorable moments of the Australian Grand Prix was Giancarlo Fisichella’s race engineer, Alan Permane, questioning the Italian over the radio as to why he was so much slower than his team mate, despite their identical machinery.

The hurry-up message, which was broadcast live to millions of television viewers, came as Fisichella was struggling to fight his way back through the field after his car had stalled on the grid. Fans may have assumed Renault to be less than impressed with his performance, but the team insist otherwise.

"It was a great drive from Giancarlo," said Pat Symonds, Renault’s Executive Director of Engineering. "The car wasn't very well-balanced during the middle part of the race when we knew it was important for Fisi to make up ground, and he was complaining of a lot of understeer. We worked with him on the radio, and he adjusted the differential and traction control to get the car back in balance.

“Things were looking good then until after the second stop, chasing Jenson Button, when the clutch failed. On a machine as sophisticated as a modern F1 car, all the systems look to protect the car from this kind of problem - and also cost you performance - until you solve it. As soon as we did, Fisi caught Jenson (Button) very quickly, and put some pressure on him.

“On a circuit where overtaking is hard, you then have to hope for a mistake from the guy in front, or that he will push his equipment too hard. That's what happened. It's a shame for Jenson, but it was a victory in its own way for Fisico."

Button’s retirement just yards from the finish line allowed Fisichella to claim fifth place, adding four points to the ten scored by team mate Fernando Alonso and boosting Renault’s lead in the constructors’ championship to 19 points.