Alonso optimistic about improved timing

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R28 advances see Renault cut time on rivals at Montmelo training sessions.

17 April 2008

MONTMELO / MADRID - Fernando Alonso indulged in some cautious optimism at the Montmelo training sessions after new improvements to his R28 bore fruits on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Spaniard improved his former best time, as well as shaving time off his rivals' advantage.

Renault technical director Bob Bell appeared to be serious when he announced last week that the team needed to undergo a "sea change" to put Renault and its R28 on par with rivals McLaren, BMW and Ferrari. The Spanish driver had started and finished in 10th place at the Bahrain Grand Prix the week previously, a result Alonso considered normal considering the deficiencies in his car's design.

On Tuesday at Montmelo, however, Alonso lowered his best time at the Barcelona circuit registered in February by eight-tenths of a second. His time of 1:20:627 placed the double world champion  only two-tenths of a second behind McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and fourth-tenths behind Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who clocked the fastest time of all the drivers using the grooved tires approved for competition this year.

On Wednesday, switching to the slick tires to be permitted next season, Alonso clocked the fastest time overall at 1:18.483, ahead of Rubens Barrichello's 1:18.928 for Honda with slick tires on Tuesday.

"The progress is evident," Alonso said, adding that the improvements could lead Renault to be "reasonably competitive."

The incorporation of the new I-Damper - essentially a weighted mass placed in the front part of the car which eliminates vibrations, improves traction and aerodynamics, and lessens tire ruin - is accredited with the majority of the improvements.

Created by Renault in 2006 and only now permitted in F1 racing, McLaren, Toyota and Red Bull are all toying with their own versions of the concept, with all eyes on the 27 April Spanish Grand Prix.

[El Pais / Manel Serras / K. Ramundo  / Expatica]

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