Giancarlo Fisichella has come to Heikki Kovalainen’s defence after the rookie teammate’s disastrous formula one debut.
Renault boss Flavio Briatore was scathing in his criticism of 25-year-old Kovalainen’s performance in the Australian grand prix, but veteran Fisichella said the R27 car made it “easy” to make mistakes at Albert Park.
“I don’t judge what Briatore said because he is the boss and he had a better view of (Kovalainen’s) race than I did,” Italian Fisichella said.
“For sure he had his reasons for saying those things.
“But I have to say that it was a tough race, we had a difficult time driving the car, so it was easy to make mistakes,” Fisichella added.
“Let’s not forget it was (Kovalainen’s) first race.
“He is a good driver but lacking in experience, so – spiritually – I feel a bit like the number one.”
Fisichella, 34, warned Renault’s fans that the reigning world champion team is unlikely to rapidly catch the pacesetters in 2007.
“Being realistic, I think it will be tough for us to win this season,” he said.
“It won’t be easy to recover this deficit. We are lacking downforce, we are lacking a lot of grip.”
He explained that the French squad’s biggest pre-season problem was struggling to understand the characteristics of Bridgestone’s new tyre while developing the 2007 car in the wind tunnel.
Fisichella continued: “Now we understand some more so we’re hoping to put together a better aero package and move forward.”