Each race review podcast our comments have become more glowing and impressed with what Renault have managed to achieve. I fear we sound like a broken record but in the end, the expectations were low and the results have been high. This weekend looked to be a real turning point for Robert Kubica and Renault and to a large part, it may have been if for morale and team synergy alone.
Kubica finished third in the Monaco Grand Prix Sunday and if I’m honest, I’m not so sure it would have been a major surprise to see him second as he was hounding Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel for the coveted position. It would have been a redemptive pass for Kubica as he lost out on the position to Vettel at the start as the young German had the clean line and took advantage of wheel spin from the Renault.
Robert Kubica, P3
Fastest lap: 1:15.353
Started race on option
Pit stop: Lap 21, time in pits: 25.801s, (prime)
Finishing third in Monaco is a super result for us after an excellent weekend. Nobody was expecting us to finish on the podium here, but we were up at the front all weekend and the whole team really deserves this result. Itâ€™s also a great performance by Renault engines to fill the top three steps of the podium. At the start of the race I lost a place to Sebastian, but I knew it was always going to be difficult starting from the dirty side of the track. Normally I would have defended the position, but Mark got quite a slow pull-away from the line and I thought I might have a chance to overtake him. Unfortunately I got some wheelspin and it was too late to close the door to Sebastian, and I also had to defend from Felipe. In the race we had excellent pace and I think I was a bit quicker than Sebastian on the prime tyres, especially after the restarts, which shows the progress we continue to make as a team and is very encouraging for the next few races.
Perhaps that is what is so impressive about Kubica, there is always more he could have done or desired from his results. To be fair, the whole team most likely sees it that way as even Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer, lamented the loss of position at the start:
Although itâ€™s great to finish on the podium, there is a little bit of frustration that we lost a place to Vettel at the start because the car was very quick today. Certainly on the prime tyres I think we were as quick as him but, as we all know, itâ€™s almost impossible to overtake at Monaco and we had to settle for third place. Vitalyâ€™s race was spoiled by a right rear puncture, which meant he had to drive almost three quarters of a lap on three wheels and that made it very difficult for him to recover. Looking ahead to Turkey, weâ€™ve got some more aerodynamic updates coming and hopefully we can build on the momentum of todayâ€™s result.
The weekend did not unravel as well for the young Russian teammate Vitaly Petrov. The punctured tire he suffered saw Petrov driving nearly three quarters of the lap on three wheels and ultimately he retired with a mechanical problem.
Vitaly Petrov, DNF
Fastest lap: 1.16.405
Started race on option
Pit stop 1: Lap 21, time in pits: 27.507s (prime) / Pit Stop 2: Lap 30, time in pits: 31.669s (prime)
Itâ€™s a bit disappointing not to make the finish of the race but I felt something wrong at the rear so the team decided to stop me with a few laps to go. Unfortunately my race was also affected by a puncture, which cost me a lot of time and put me a lap down. The start of the race was not too bad and I made up a few positions, but we didnâ€™t make up as many positions during the pit stops as we hoping to and we need to understand why this was the case. Still, I completed most of the race and this is more good experience for me. Hopefully I can come back to Monaco next year and score some points.
My hunch is that Petrov will be an integral part of the team as soon as he gets the gremlins out of his car and settles into F1. His pace looks terrific and I love this young mans grit. Another great weekend for Renault who continually raise their game and earn honest praise from my…as I’m sure you’ll hear yet again on our race review podcast.
Looking ahead to Turkey, what expectations does Kubica have? The team asked him:
Robert, congratulations on your podium in Monaco. How was the race from the cockpit?
I always knew that it would be difficult to start from the dirty side of the track, and that was the case today. Mark Webber had quite a slow pull-away from the line, but I was a bit optimistic on the throttle and I got too much wheelspin. Then I had Massa very close to me on the inside and so I had to defend my position and be happy with the third place. The rest of the race was pretty straightforward without any real problems and we coped well with the safety car periods. It was a very long race â€“ almost two hours â€“ so you had to keep your concentration and avoid making any mistakes.
You seemed to be matching the pace of Sebastian Vettel todayâ€¦
Yes, with the prime tyres I was matching his times. I think I was even quicker in certain parts of the race, especially after the safety car periods. Even though we know that Monaco is an unusual circuit, this performance is very encouraging for us.
What are you hopes for the next race in Turkey?
I am currently sixth in the driversâ€™ championship after six races, and equal on points with Lewis Hamilton, which is a great position to be in. Before the start of the year a lot of people were writing Renault off and didnâ€™t believe in us, so our start to the season is the perfect response. Our podium today had nothing to do with luck because we have been quick all weekend and I think that makes this result even more special. Itâ€™s a great reward for the entire team who are working so hard at the moment. For the rest of the season, our objective is clear: to keep up this momentum and continue improving the car.