The R28: All Off A Sudden Fisichella & Kovalainen Don’t Look So Bad

The R28: All Off A Sudden Fisichella & Kovalainen Don’t Look So Bad

The R25 was a championship winner, as was the R26, both chassis winning numerous races and claiming a drivers title each at the hands of Fernando Alonso. But after the Spaniards defection to McLaren in 2007, Renault produced a bit of a dog with the R27. When the Anglo-French team arrived at the first race, there were many unknowns. Fisichella had only won two races in the last two years and many doubted his ability to lead the team and rookie partner Heikki Kovalainen

car was pretty terrible and the team suffered a winless season. Fisichella’s name was dragged through the mud and the Italian lost a lot of reputation the world over. I feared that a talent such as Kovalainen would end up being lost due to the spectacular down turn of the Renault team. But both survived, and now they are on the up again. But thanks aren’t just owed to themselves and their new teams, because thanks are also due to the R28 and the man who believes he has six-tenths up his sleeve.

By January 2008, both Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen had been unceremoniously fired to make way for a returning Alonso and young rookie Nelson Piquet Jr. Kovalainen found solace at McLaren while Fisichella went to Force India. A strange move for the Italian but I suspect it was one of very few options available to him at the time. Both drivers reputations had been tested in 2007, partly thanks to the wayward car and lack of results, and partly thanks to poor management by Flavio Briatore. While all eyes were on Ron Dennis, few noticed just how often Briatore berated his men for lack of points.

But now we have the ability to make some comparisons. I grant you they are a little crude, but I’m going to make them regardless, the reputations of Heikki and Fisi being too important to ignore on this site.

The R28, the current Renault that has pounded its way around Albert Park and earlier today, Sepang, is a development of the R27. And knowing that the R27 wasn’t that great you’d expect a few improvements to have been made along the way. Thankfully (for this post), the 2007 season started out the same as 2008; Albert Park followed by Sepang.

2007 Australia 2007 Malaysia 2008 Australia 2008 Malaysia
Giancarlo Fisichella 5th (4pts) 6th (3pts) Ret (0pts) 12th (0pts)
Heikki Kovalainen Ret (0pts) 8th (1pt) 5th (4pts) 3rd (6pts)
Fernando Alonso 2nd (8pts) 1st (10pts) 4th (5pts) 8th (1pt)
Nelson Piquet Jr n/a n/a Ret (0pts) 11th (0pts)

By the end of the 2007 Malaysian race Fisichella had accrued seven points, Heikki one. At the same point this year, Alonso rests on six while Piquet Jr is yet to score. In their new teams, Heikki has impressed with strong runs for McLaren and Fisichella looks settled in the Force India. The Finn should have been on two podium now but an error late in the Australian Grand Prix put paid to that. His overtaking move on Fernando Alonso was great though and undoubtedly put a smile on Ron Dennis’s face.

Further down the grid Giancarlo impressed during the winter in the old Spyker F8-VII. The new VJM01 isn’t much different and strong runs in free practice and qualifying underline the Italian’s strengths. His twelfth place finish in Malaysia was a great result, especially when you consider he outraced Rubens Barrichello (Australia result: 6th before penalty), Nico Rosberg (Australia result: 3rd) and Kazuki Nakajima (Australia result: 7th).

So should have Fisichella been given the berating he did last season for under-performing in the Renault? No, I believe not. For sure Giancarlo didn’t perform at his best, but the Renault R27 was a poor chassis. It has been evolved into the R28, but it would appear the team have taking a step backwards. Don’t forget, Fernando Alonso brings six tenths with him!

Heikki too deserves praise for claiming 30 points in 2007, something I feel Fernando Alonso will will struggle to match this season. The Finn’s performances so far in the McLaren MP4-23 have been good and he will only get better. A win is surely on the cards and once that milestone is broken I suspect Heikki’s success will gather pace quickly.

So where does this leave Renault? With a poor car and egg on their faces, I believe.

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8 comments

  • The R27 wasn’t a slow car, but it was very inconsistant, which made it hard for the drivers to really push it.

    I think the R28 is more consistant corner to corner, but not quite as quick. I think over the course of the year the team will improve it and it’ll leave them in a much better position for next year.

  • This is what happens when Flavio Briatore spends more time messing his drivers about than actually managing his team. I have yet to see any evidence to suggest that Alonso/Piquet Jr. is a better combination to drive the 2008 Renault than Fisichella/Kovalainen, and I suspect that it may even be worse.

    Oh well, Renault’s loss is McLaren and Force India’s gain, and as a Force India fan, I’m grateful that someone as good as Fisi is there to make best use of the VJM01.

  • I think both drivers are good, and they may have been treated unfairly last season, but also think they can’t be judged equally. Which harmed more Fisichella’s reputation was how performed compared with his teammate year after year, and that was completely an “apples to apples” comparison (yours it’s OK but obviously less accurate, and the spectrum it’s too narrow.)

    Otherwise, Heikki was a rookie. He needed time and confidence, which he did not get. Hamilton performed very since the start but that’s very, very hard to do.

  • Flavio Briatore should stop messing about with QPR and should keep his head on formula 1 and if he can make the R28 better. Both Alonso and Piquet are great drivers but do not have the pace in the car to get podiums. Im a mclaren fan and am pleased with Kovalainen signing and if he had a competitive car last year he would of scored more than 30 points.

  • This kind of analysis surely can be taken the other way around…

    look at the McLaren Results 2007-2008

    2007 after Malaysia = 18 (FA) + 14 (LH) = 32

    2008 after Malaysia = 10 (HK) + 14 (LH) = 24

    Can I conclude that Lewis has made no progress and Heikki is only 55% worth Fernando Alonso ? Or may be the McLaren has not improved since last year ?

    I will not jump to this conclusion indeed…

    We know that in F1 the car does a lot in the result, but we don’t need figures to see how the drivers behave. Surely Alonso is a great driver and he is worth a couple of tenth on a quick lap… Let’s wait until Monaco to see where we are.

    Lewis and Fernando are great racers that can get from their car more that its face value. Heikki ? wait and see… but I admit the R27 was not the best car for a rookie to say the least…

    Briatore ? Well Italian characters are not easy to understand for brits, what could I say ? Look at its achievements they speak for themselves. But I agree the guy is… special

  • I’m not an Alonso fan, however, it must be said that I do believe that he gives “six-tenths” to the car.

    He helped Renault develop the car into a champion winning car and then when he left, it didn’t do very well.

    Now 2008 is here, the car perhaps looks like it has the same pace as last year, but I have a 6th sense that the car is getting better and better with each race and that it won’t be long till Fernando is on the podium.

    Stephen 🙂

  • I don’t agree about Fisichella – a driver approaching 200 races should have had the experience to help the team with the inconsistencies they struggled with the R27. Instead he got his backside handed to him by a rookie.

    I think with Alonso back at the team we’ll see what a genuinely top-level driver can do with a bad car.

  • A team with a driver approaching 200 races should have had the sense to let him test once they knew they had a problem, instead of making Kovalainen and Piquet Jr. do all the testing from May onwards. Experience doesn’t do much good solving a team’s problems if the team doesn’t want to utilise it…

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