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Renault left searching for answers 19 Mar 2007

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2007

World champions Renault have admitted that, as yet, they have no specific explanation for the lack of pace that saw them come away from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix with just four points.

The French team failed to make an impact on the front runners, with Giancarlo Fisichella their best finisher in fifth. The Italian did well to hold off the charging Ferrari of Felipe Massa late on, but nevertheless came home well over a minute behind winner Kimi Raikkonen.

“It’s not just a question of simply looking at the classification, but the gaps as well,” admitted Renault’s head of track engine operations, Denis Chevrier, to the team’s official website. “We were around a second a lap off the pace. It’s huge, especially as we didn’t run into any special problems.”

A glance at the lap chart confirms that Renault were out-paced not just by traditional rivals Ferrari and McLaren, but also by BMW Sauber and Williams. Chevrier confessed he could pinpoint no one reason for the deficit, but acknowledged the team did need to make better use of their tyres.

“We did not have the wrong strategy or meet with problems during pit stops, for example,” he added. “It’s difficult to attribute this lack of performance to any one parameter in particular; it would be too simple but one thing that’s clear is that we’re not yet getting the best out of the tyres.”

In the second Renault, Heikki Kovalainen had a troubled afternoon in Melbourne, finishing down in tenth place after several off-track moments. The only consolation for the team is that they now have three weeks to regroup before the next round at Sepang, where they will also have the luxury of a pre-race test ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix on April 8.

“We’ll have to sort through the data collected this weekend, find some explanations, and then improve the interaction between the chassis-engine-tyre package,” concluded Chevrier.

The Australia result means Renault lie fourth in the constructors’ standings.