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Fisichella: Ferrari and McLaren still ahead 02 Mar 2007

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault. Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, Day One, Monday 12 February 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton

Italian banking on reliability in bid for Melbourne podium

Giancarlo Fisichella has admitted that Renault could struggle to match their two main rivals for pace when the 2007 Formula One season gets underway in Australia in just over a fortnight’s time.

In terms of lap times, world champions Renault have been overshadowed during winter testing by Ferrari and McLaren. Although Fisichella believes they may well have closed the gap during the Bahrain sessions, he says it might not yet be quite enough.

“For sure, we are still behind Ferrari in particular, they looked very strong this week,” he told Renault’s official website. “McLaren are a little bit ahead too, and BMW are competitive as well, but I think we have made a good step forward.”

Renault’s preparations for Melbourne suffered a setback earlier this week when Fisichella’s team mate Heikki Kovalainen crashed heavily in Bahrain, robbing the team of around a day’s track time. Nevertheless, Fisichella insists the Sakhir running provided significant gains.

“Things went pretty well for us this week,” said the Italian. “From the first day on Tuesday to the final day, we made some good progress with the car, and that’s a positive sign. There was a big step forward with the balance and set-up, and I think we look more competitive now.”

But even if Renault find they don’t quite have the speed of their rivals when they get to Albert Park, Fischella believes Renault’s excellent reliability could prove their trump card. As a result he is targeting at least a top-three finish.

“I think we have a good estimate of where everybody is, but until you start running at the race, you never know…” he said. “I think we have to aim to be on the podium. The reliability of our package is very good at the moment, and that can be a big asset in the opening races.”

Renault won last year’s Australian Grand Prix - then round three of the season - with Fernando Alonso taking the honours and Fisichella finishing fifth.