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Friday preview - Alonso still cautious 29 Jul 2005

FIA Press Conference (L to R): Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hockenheim, Germany, 23 July 2005

The two world championship contenders spelled out their hopes yesterday, each sounding very different.

With 70 points still on the table from the remaining seven races Fernando Alonso knows he is not home and dry by any means, even though his 36 point lead gives him a major cushion. “But what if we have two or three retirements?” the Spaniard asked. “Then it will be very close again. We have seven races to go, and if we carry on doing the same job then it is possible with this car. But we need to avoid problems and I can't make any mistakes.”

He admitted that it is harder for the media to stop thinking about it, rather than for him to start, and added: “I take the races one by one, because there is no other way. This circuit should be good for us, our car should be strong here, so we have a good opportunity this weekend. We need to take it. We have to attack. McLaren are quicker than us, but we know this should be a good track for the Renault. So we need to be aggressive and score lots of points.”

Speaking of his maiden victory here two years ago, he said: “I finished P2 here in F3000, and have been on the podium every year with Renault. I just like driving here! I think it is the hardest race, along with Malaysia and Monaco. We have no time to relax - only one straight where we can breathe, then 14 corners with no break. It is hot in the car, and it’s a long race with many laps. It is tough for the drivers.”

Qualifying is crucial, and of course Kimi Raikkonen will be penalised having to run first. “For sure, and for me it is best to be running last. But I walked the track today, and it was not as dirty as usual, so maybe the advantage is less. But I still think it will be a few tenths faster at the end of the session.”

Referring to allegations that he has lucked into some of his six wins this year, he said: “It is unfair to call it luck. Is it luck because the people at Renault have done a good job? We have designed an engine that lasts 1400 km, our mechanics did not sleep through the winter at the tests to prepare the car so we could test more, our guys in the wind tunnel are working 24 hours to improve the car, so I don't think you can say we are lucky. If the other teams have not done that, it is not our fault!

“The Renault R25 is not the quickest car at the moment, but it is the best. I think we have a different philosophy to some other teams. McLaren want to have the quickest car, but with some risk. We want a quick car, but with no risk. Maybe we have sacrificed some performance on the engine, or the chassis, but we are happy because the car is reliable. The only place where we took some risk was Imola, with my damaged engine, but even then we managed it the right way.”

Alonso turns 24 this weekend, but while he refused to admit to his birthday wishes rival Jenson Button was not slow to voice his: “I hope he gets drunk! Maybe we can help him!”

Meanwhile, Raikkonen, like all McLaren personnel saddened by the death here on Wednesday morning of team chef Darren Hawker who fell from a balcony at the Marriott Hotel, said: “We don’t really know what happened but I am very sad, I feel very sorry for family.”

He accepted his fifth consecutive retirement at Hockenheim philosophically. “It’s not the first time it’s happened so you get used to it. It was disappointing for everyone but we need to move forward this race. Sometimes those things happen, they are not very nice, but what can we do? But for this race we are in a difficult position for qualifying. If I don’t have a good qualifying lap it will be very hard to get past anyone here.”

Asked if he was still thinking of the world championship, he added: “Not really, it is slipping away too much now. There is still a chance, but we have to be realistic.”

Somebody mentioned that Juan Pablo Montoya believes he can now challenge him for second behind Alonso. Raikkonen just shrugged. “I hadn’t heard that! But that’s not really what we are aiming for. I want P1. But we’ll see what happens. P2 is not what I’m racing for.”