Fernando Alonso and Renault had the world at their feet after the Spanish Grand Prix, but in Austria the young Spaniard made a silly mistake on his qualifying lap and the new R23 engine failed to last.

Fernando Alonso and Renault had the world at their feet after the Spanish Grand Prix, but in Austria the young Spaniard made a silly mistake on his qualifying lap and the new R23 engine failed to last.

Alonso, 21, shone in front of his home crowd two weeks ago when his fight for victory with world champion Michael Schumacher at the Circuit de Catalunya led observers to hail him as the sport's latest rising star.

But the amiable youngster was brought down to earth at the A1-Ring on Sunday and Renault had a weekend that its management would rather forget. Admittedly, the Austrian Grand Prix marked the first time that Alonso failed to finish a grand prix this year - but his uprated, moderately more powerful wide-angle R23 engine did not prove successful.

Renault had not expected to be very competitive at the A1-Ring, a track where cars with a high top speed tend to dominate, but Alonso made things worse by spinning out of the qualifying session and two engine problems ruined his race.

"This was the first time I have not finished a race this season and I hope it is the last," said Alonso, who dropped to fourth in the championship table after Brazilian Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello passed him with six points for third place in Austria.

"We did prove competitive on this circuit, which was a bit of a surprise for us, and after starting the race from the pitlane I climbed up to eighth before I was forced to retire so I am very optimistic for the races to come," he said.

Alonso finished seventh in Australia to claim two points and followed that up with two third places, in Malaysia and Brazil, a sixth place in San Marino and a career-best second place at his home race in Spain.

The Anglo-French team's performance in Austria, however, highlighted the inconsistencies that prove they are unlikely to be championship contenders this year and managing director Flavio Briatore warned they must "make sure this does not happen again".

In the race after the team announced the departure of long-serving engine guru Jean-Jacques His, their radical wide vee-angle powerplant let them down for the first time this season. Renault were apparently trying to lure Mercedes-Benz designer Mario Illien to their French engine base in Viry-Chatillon during the course of the weekend.

"We have to examine what happened and why we were not more competitive," Renault's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds said. "It was a very difficult race from the beginning with Fernando starting the race from the pitlane due to a last minute engine failure but he improved his position dramatically throughout the race”.

Meanwhile, F1's governing body has launched an immediate investigation into the fuel rig problems which caused Michael Schumacher's Ferrari to catch fire during his first pit stop on Sunday.

CARtoday.com reported on Monday that Ferrari used its back-up rig to refuel Schumacher's car after the main refuelling hose malfunctioned when team-mate Rubens Barrichello pitted two laps earlier.

"The FIA and Ferrari are looking into the cause of the refuelling incident which saw the fuel connector to Michael Schumacher's car catch fire during his pit stop," said a FIA spokesman. "Preliminary checks suggest the fuel problems were caused by a very small accumulation of fuel in the car connector, but the source of the ignition is not yet known.

Original article from Car