- European Grand Prix
Options available to Heidfeld
Nick Heidfeld said he didn't set a lap time in Q3 in order to save tyres because he couldn't match the times set by Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes.
Heidfeld just managed to make it through in to the final session ahead of Adrian Sutil as team-mate Vitaly Petrov missed out by just 0.04s. Heidfeld then took to the track to set his time during Q3, but with the top eight out of reach and Sutil not setting a time, he returned to the pits. Heidfeld said he would have liked to have done a lap, but that the team made the right call.
"When I went out in Q3, we saw that Sutil was not going to do a lap time so we quite rightly came back in because the cars ahead had posted times that were considerably quicker," Heidfeld said. "Of course, when you're in the car and you are called back, you want to stay out and have a go! But, it was the right decision because we've saved tyres. We were targeting higher than P9 and P11 but realistically, on today's pace, that's where we were so we will now look forward to a strong race tomorrow."
Renault chief race engineer Alan Permane said the result was not what the team wanted, but took some solace from the options available to both drivers.
"Today was a disappointing qualifying session," Permane said. "Our target is always to get both cars into Q3 so to miss out by three hundredths of a second with Vitaly was frustrating to say the least. I don't think he had the cleanest of laps, but the real problem is that the car has not had enough pace at this track to assure ourselves of a comfortable top ten position.
"We do have the slight benefit of being able to decide which tyres we will start the race with tomorrow, and we can make this call for both cars as we didn't complete a timed run in Q3 with Nick. We could see that Adrian Sutil was not going to run and we did not have the pace to go faster than the cars in front, so by conserving tyres and not setting a timed lap we've opened up our race strategy options for Nick."
Petrov himself agreed that it was raw pace that Renault was lacking, but that the way it handles its rear tyres would be crucial for the race in high temperatures.
"We didn't have any particular problems, just not quite enough speed so we will try our hardest in the race tomorrow," Petrov said. "It's a long race and it won't be an easy one in this heat. We will analyse the data and hope we perform better on fresh tyres. I'm sure there will be a lot of overtaking and much will depend on who can look after the rear tyres the best. Here, the degradation is not as bad as we have seen and we will not see a race like Barcelona so I'm confident we can take a good stride forwards and get a good result."