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Renault insist R29 will be on the pace

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Jerez testing 2009Renault technical director Bob Bell says his team are happy with the performance of the R29 so far despite some underwhelming times in testing.

The new Renault has been near the bottom of the timesheets at most tests so far, but Bell believes that yesterday's result at Jerez - where Fernando Alonso was second-best amongst the 2009 cars and 0.2 seconds slower than McLaren's Lewis Hamilton - was more representative.

"It's still very early days, but I'm becoming increasingly more satisfied with the performance of the car," said Bell.

"Obviously the Portimao test was a disappointment to us as we only had one dry day and although the car ran well from a reliability point of view, we still had lots of unanswered performance-related questions.

"It's true that we didn't look great at that first test, but that was not really a surprise to us as we simply got the car out with an interim set of bodywork so that we could get miles on it, evaluate reliability and get the KERS system up and running. So we didn't really expect to be that competitive, especially as we were learning about the set-up that is needed for this new generation of cars.

"Since then we've put a lot of things right at the Jerez test and I think we've made good progress. Overall I'm encouraged by what we've seen so far.

"From what we've seen in Jerez this week, I don't feel there are any fundamental problems with the car: it's well balanced and is responding well to changes. We're lacking a bit of grip, which is the same for everybody, but that will improve as we fit new parts to the car and continue our development up to the first race.

"Overall I feel we're on course to deliver a good performance in Melbourne."

The distinctive nose section of the R29 has attracted particular comment since the car's unveiling, but Bell said the fact that they had followed different ideas to their rivals did not mean that Renault had got their design wrong.

"With new regulations this year, all the teams have gone away to develop behind closed doors and so it's no surprise that you end up with as many different solutions as there are teams," he said.

"All we can do is be sure that we've done the best job we can and accept that to begin with the cars will look very different. So far I've not seen anything on our competitors' cars that is particularly worrying for us or makes me think we've taken a fundamentally wrong direction."

Renault have now decided to cancel a planned private test in Barcelona next week in favour of running at the Spanish Grand Prix venue in the week before Melbourne - a decision that Bell is very happy with.

"It may be more difficult from a logistical point of view because we've got to get the car to Melbourne the following week, but it buys us more development time to get new components onto the car and tested prior to Melbourne," he said.

"It was something that we had in our minds as a possibility and I think it's a very worthwhile decision."

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Q & A with Renault's Bob Bell