Renault is partly blaming today's cooler conditions in Melbourne for its disappointing performance in qualifying for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix. Both drivers struggled with reduced grip and increased oversteer, according to chief engineer Alan Permane.
Robert Kubica made it through to Q3 and qualified ninth for the second race in a row, while teammate Vitaly Petrov made a mistake on his best lap in Q1 and wound up 18th – the only driver from the established teams to get eliminated at this stage.
Kubica said: "I think I got the maximum that was possible from qualifying today. I had to push hard because the car was not easy to drive and I think we lost some performance in the colder conditions.
"For the race tomorrow the weather could play a big role, but I don't care if it's wet or dry. Hopefully we can fight for some good points."
Petrov said he would do his best to get a good result despite having to start his maiden Australian GP from row nine, on his first visit to the tricky Albert Park street track.
"I'm disappointed not to make it out of Q1 because the car has been competitive all weekend," said the Russian rookie. "Qualifying is a new experience for me and I'm still learning. It's very busy out on track, it was difficult to get a clear lap and I didn't put my three best sectors together when it counted on my final run. The car didn't feel as well-balanced today either. The times show I had the pace to be in Q2, so of course I'm disappointed not to have reached my potential.
"It will be a tough race starting so far down the field and the track is narrow, so it's difficult to overtake, but I will try my best to get a good result tomorrow."
Team principal Eric Boullier added: "After a promising practice yesterday, today did not go as we expected, which is partly down to the cooler conditions. Robert's car was not as competitive as yesterday, but he got the most from it to make it into the top 10, which is a good result.
"We hope there will be a lot of action in the race and we know that our car can be competitive in the damp. So anything can happen."