Renault Ready to Challenge Bmw Sauber

By: Anthony Fontanelle

French Renault believes that the team is now poised to topple German BMW Sauber as the third fastest on the Formula One grid. With McLaren and Ferrari in a league of their own, Renault has thrived to keep pace with the BMW team.

Renault scored its best result of the season last Sunday in Monaco. Giancarlo finished just outside the podium places - scoring five valuable points in the course. The team showed a significantly improved level of performance. And in just over a week's time, the next challenge comes in the form of the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. There, the team aims to beat BMW.

Formula One's reigning world champions have experienced a thespian-like fall from grace this season with neither Heikki Kovalainen nor Giancarlo Fisichella yet to finish on the podium. However, Renault technical director Pat Symonds believes that Fisichella's fourth place in Monaco signals a revival.

"We're breaking out of that really scary midfield group, and in breaking out we are of course moving closer to the front," Symonds announced in the team's podcast. "BMW are our next challenge and we're there, just that tiny bit behind them, although that will vary from circuit to circuit. There's still a little way to go to the Ferrari-McLaren battle, but I'm proud of what our guys have done this year to move us up, having accepted that things weren't right at the start."

Meanwhile, BMW-Sauber drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld are relishing Formula One's transatlantic trip to Montreal, as the pairing bid to consolidate the squad's third position in the constructors' championship from the resurgent French team.

A remarkable performance in Monaco, where the duo took fifth and sixth places, took the Munich team's points score up to a striking 30 from the opening five grands prix and that is just six shy of its total in the previous year. Although Montreal was not BMW's most successful race of the 2006 season, with only a seventh place for Heidfeld to take away with them, the team drivers are positive they can excel at the demanding high-speed circuit, and maintain the team's 100 percent record of scoring points in every race so far.

"Like most drivers, I really like travelling over to Montreal," Heidfeld said. "The race circuit occupies an incredibly beautiful location on the island in the St Lawrence River, which makes for an unmistakable atmosphere, and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve itself has a very special character too."

BMW Sauber's one-stop strategy in Monaco was not an ideal strategy, given that the anticipated safety-car periods never materialized. Despite that, Kubica came away satisfied with fifth place, especially as it put him ahead of team mate Heidfeld. Now he is focusing on the next round in Canada, where he predicts the gap to Ferrari and McLaren will become even smaller. BMW fuel pump, engines and other racing parts would certainly not fail them.

Asked if he is surprised at the rated of development, Kubica said, "We already knew at the roll-out of the car that it would be quite competitive, though we had no idea of how competitive. The guys in Munich and Hinwil did a fantastic job - obviously a better one than at many other team headquarters. But we still keep on pushing, because in the end we don't want to stop at being 'the third power' - we have the ambition to take it all the way to the top. And I am very proud to be part of that plan."

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