Fading Alonso gets title lifeline, F1

August 5th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Fading Alonso gets title lifeline, F1


Renaultís faltering title hopes have been given a huge boost after they were cleared to use a pioneering design that was banned for the last race.

Governing body, FIA, will not punish teams using a radical suspension system it controversially banned for last weekend's German Grand Prix.
Schumi cuts Alonso's way
Renault's Fernando Alonso struggled to fifth at Hockenheim while rival Michael Schumacher won his third straight race. Schumacher is now just 11 points behind Alonso with six races to go. The Ferrari driver has cut Alonso's once-massive lead by 14 points in just three races, all of which the German has won.
Alonso said Germany was "probably the hardest" race of the season "because we were not competitive throughout the weekend".
Renault learned before the German race that they would not be allowed to use the "mass damper" suspension system they pioneered last season, and which had subsequently been adopted by six other teams. The FIA said before the race that it considered the suspension to be illegal because it helped the cars' aerodynamics. But the FIA's race stewards in Germany then passed the system as legal - only for FIA bosses to say they intended to lodge an appeal against that decision.
As that appeal will not take place until after this weekend's race in Hungary, Renault felt they could not risk running the suspension system in Germany as they could have subsequently lost the points it scored if the FIA won its appeal. But the FIA has now indicated that it will not seek to retrospectively punish any team using the "mass damper" system if its appeal is successful.

Cause of poor performance
Renault was hurt by the ban more than other teams because its entire car was designed around the system, whereas others had simply added it on at a later date.
Engineering boss Pat Symonds admitted that the team's performance was harmed by not running the suspension. "This was not the only factor that contributed to our unsatisfactory result," Symonds said, "but it goes without saying that removing the mass damper degraded our performance, otherwise the component would not have been on the car throughout the season. "After using the device for the first time in the final races of 2005, the design and development of this year's car was optimised with it in place." "The ride and the behaviour over kerbs at the last race was certainly not as good as we have been accustomed to this year. But there were other factors at work as well."
Renault also struggled with tyre blistering, which was almost certainly worsened by not using the "mass damper", but they are hopeful that a new tyre for Hungary will solve that problem.
The team will also continue with a new aerodynamic package that was introduced in Germany, where its effectiveness was limited by the team's other problems.
Renault are facing a tough task holding on to their championship lead as Ferrari's tyre supplier Bridgestone has appeared to have an advantage over Michelin in the last three races. But Alonso said he was hopeful he could hang on to win his second consecutive title. "The tyres in Hungary are very different to what we need in Germany, and Michelin have reacted to the problems as well," the Spaniard said. "People are talking about Michael closing in, but I was never over-confident when I was leading - and I am not panicking now. I am confident we can have a strong race, and there is no reason why Renault cannot come out on top."

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