Nick Heidfeld says his priority is to lift his and his Renault team's qualifying performances at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, because that will boost their chances of securing another podium finish.
Although qualifying is no longer as important as it once was for deciding race positions, the evidence from the first races suggests that being in clear air near the front of the field does help significantly with helping drivers to look after their tires. Having experienced races both near the front and from the back, Heidfeld thinks it essential that he and Renault begin securing better grid positions.
"The race in Istanbul was good – we had good pace and I think generally we've got the speed to compete with the teams ahead," said the German. "If we have stronger qualifying sessions, we'll definitely give ourselves a good chance each Sunday. This is my main focus now."
He added: "This season requires a real team effort from everyone. I will need to concentrate on getting the most out of it, but I think it's too early days to speak about final championship positions just yet. Nico [Rosberg] is only a point behind me now and Mercedes has improved a lot over the last two races. However, we scored as many points as they did in Turkey so we can stay clear of them.
"The Ferraris are not far away – Felipe [Massa] has finished behind me in a couple of races and he is not many points ahead so my aim is to start challenging him in the standings very soon."
Renault will introduce a series of upgrades to its car this weekend that it hopes will deliver around 0.2sec of performance per lap.
Technical director James Allison said: "We bring another handful of aerodynamic upgrades for the next race – the development race never lets up. None of them are individually large, but there are six in total and they add up to another 0.15-0.2sec per lap. It isn't a huge upgrade but if we can keep that up for every race then it starts to tell."
Allison believes that the nature of the Barcelona circuit, with its high tire degradation, will again produce a large number of pit stops and plenty of overtaking.
"At some tracks these tires are really on the edge –Turkey was one of them and Barcelona will be another. So having a very careful plan on Friday to prepare for the race is very important. Also, it has increasingly become clear to everybody to conserve tires during qualifying in order to maximize results on Sunday."
He added: "By far the biggest influence over the ease of overtaking in Turkey was as a result of the track being very tough on the tires. Barcelona is likely to be similar, with soft tires that degrade up to three tenths of a second per lap. This means that small variations in strategy yield very large differences in performance at different times in the race. Stopping just three laps different to another car will give nearly a second per lap difference in performance. Set against that, the DRS and KERS have only a second order effect on the ease of overtaking. We can expect another breathless race with a lot of on-track action – not a traditional hallmark of the Spanish GP."