The European Grand Prix Preview 04 May 2006
Fernando Alonso is expecting a major challenge from McLaren Mercedes on the latters home ground at the Nurburgring this weekend, but with both the championship leader and team mate Giancarlo Fisichella equipped with the latest uprated B-specification RS26 V8, Renault will be going all-out with an aggressive approach as the competition heats up.
I went to Imola saying that second would be a good result for me, because Ferrari have always been strong there, Alonso says. They were competitive, like we expected, but I think that in the race, the Renault was very close in performance - and maybe even a bit quicker in race conditions. So far, I have had perfect reliability this season, and we are working hard to make sure that continues - while adding performance as well. This has been a dream start for me, because there is such a high level of competition in the field. I hope it will continue!
We will have a big push from McLaren and Mercedes at their home race meeting, running on the same Michelin tyres as us.
Alonso won last years race only after Kimi Raikkonens McLaren suffered a suspension failure thanks to vibrations from a flat-spotted tyre, something that is unlikely to recur now that tyre changes are allowed again in races.
McLaren had a good test at Silverstone last week, as did Renault, and likewise have engine and chassis updates on the MP4-21. Ferrari, their tail up since Imola, have also been honing the 248 F1 and Michael Schumacher believes that he will be in contention for the world championship for the rest of the year.
Honda need a strong result here, and like Williams, BMW Sauber and Red Bull they also tested at Silverstone. All four, together with Toyota who tested in Paul Ricard, will be in contention for points this weekend. BMW in particular are placing a lot of store in a more powerful version of their P86 engine.
At Midland, highly rated German F3 driver Adrian Sutil handles Friday test duties alongside Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers, while Franck Montagny does likewise for Super Aguri as assistant to Takuma Sato and Yuji Ide.
The Nurburgring places a premium on traction with its numerous slow corners, though the less powerful V8 engines mean the cars are less on their limit of traction under hard acceleration. The track also has some high-speed corners and medium-speed chicanes that can upset the handling balance, and is one of the highest-downforce circuits of the season.