Champions remain upbeat, despite errant wheel nut
Sundays Hungarian Grand Prix marked Renaults first double retirement of the year. It wasnt a great day for title rivals Ferrari either. That was until BMW Saubers Robert Kubica was disqualified, turning the Italian teams one point into three, and putting them just seven behind Renault in the constructors table.
On top of that, Fernando Alonsos advantage over Michael Schumacher in the driver standings narrowed to ten points. But despite enduring their worst weekend of the season, both Alonso and Renaults Executive Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds, believe the result alters little for the team with just five races remaining.
"It doesn't change anything at all for us," explained Symonds. "The end result in terms of the points difference is minimal. The pleasure of yesterday's race for the team was that we were able to dominate in all conditions, and that the Renault was the best car out there. Equally, we feel very, very confident that in a dry race, the car would have been extremely competitive, and I am convinced we would have beaten Ferrari. In spite of scoring zero points, that's a very encouraging situation for the next races."
Alonso was similarly upbeat after his first non-finish since Canada 2005, and his first race out of the points since Hungary last year. The fact that he had built up a 30-second lead before the safety-car period was proof enough to him that Renault remain the team to beat.
"I think this is the most competitive Renault has been all season," commented the world champion. "So when you are in that situation, it's tough to retire because we should have scored some big points on Sunday. But it was a great race, I passed 14 cars in the first 20 laps and really enjoyed myself out there.
And when you look at the big picture, we may have had a problem but the performance showed that Renault is up there fighting, and Michelin are doing a great job as well. We can be very confident as we head to Turkey."
Alonso retired on lap 52, immediately following his second and final pit-stop where dry tyres were fitted to his car. As he left the pit lane, it was evident there was a problem at the right rear, which firstly put him into a spin at Turn 1 then ended his race at Turn 2.
Television footage showed the wheel nut part company with the axle before Alonso spun. Initial investigations suggested an axle problem had been at fault, but detailed inspection of the damaged parts showed the cause lay elsewhere.
"There is a safety mechanism holding the wheel-nut on, and it did not disengage at the second pit-stop," explained Symonds. "That meant the wheel nut was damaged as it was removed, and did not re-attach correctly as the new wheel went on. The reassuring fact is that this is a simple problem to fix, and doesn't put the exceptional reliability of the R26 in any doubt. We will have a modified solution in place for Turkey."