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Alonso and Barrichello candid about 2009 plans 22 Aug 2008

(L to R): Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing F1 Team with Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Friday, 4 April 2008 Turn 25
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 21 August 2008 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 21 August 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari and Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 21 August 2008 Ferrari F2008.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 21 August 2008

Fernando Alonso was in supportive mode for Renault on Thursday as he tried to play down continuing rumours of talks with Ferrari and Honda and to bolster the Anglo-French team’s battle with Toyota for fourth place in the constructors’ world championship.

“I am reviewing whether to stay with Renault for another year,” he admitted. “And why not? I have been saying for the last three months that I will concentrate in the next three or four races on our crucial fight with Toyota. We will throw everything into the track to try to beat them. September, October, it will be time to think about 2009.”

In other words, once Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen has made his decision whether to continue next year.

“I want to win podiums, and races, next year,” Alonso reiterated. “We will see how strongly Renault can finish the season and how much confidence I have that they will do well in 2009. The change in the regulations will be a bit into the unknown and we will not know which team will be slow and which will be quick. But Renault were world champions two years ago so they know how to build quick cars.”

Honda's Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, stated his case for another season of racing. “I think the team are definitely talking to Fernando,” he said of his Japanese employers, “but I have never been so enthusiastic about my whole situation with them. I left Ferrari because I didn’t have the freedom to do what I want to do, and at Honda I have that but not the car to perform. I am waiting for that chance. The day that I feel that I am slower than I was in my first race is the day I will call a stop. So I am still talking to team, and other teams. I want to be racing.”

The drivers have reacted very enthusiastically to what is clearly going to be a very quick ‘street’ circuit in Valencia.

“It’s not so bad, circuit looks good but we need to wait and see how it works tomorrow,” Toyota's Jarno Trulli said. “The atmosphere here is great.”

“I love it,” Barrichello said. “I think it’s a facility which is fantastic, well prepared. The only thing I don’t like is that the policemen keep telling me to turn right, they tell me to go to Barcelona and come back! I have a five minute walk that takes 20!”

“It’s really impressive and interesting,” offered Ferrari's Felipe Massa. “It’s a pretty different track than we are used to having on the calendar. Some corners seem to be like Monaco, but there are very long straights similar to Bahrain. It will be very dirty tomorrow, the asphalt will be very slippery, but I think it will be okay.”

And McLaren's Lewis Hamilton said: “It’s a beautiful place and they’ve done a fantastic job to build it up. The track looks awesome.”

Both Hamilton and Massa also spoke of consistency being the key to victory in the championship battle.

"Looking back at the season so far, it feels like a different championship compared to last year: 2007 was very intense and consistency was incredibly important," Hamilton said. "This year, everybody's results have been more varied and every driver who has won a race has also failed to score on at least two other occasions. That's made getting strong results even more important, but I think we'll see consistency becoming crucial as we head towards the end of the season."

Massa shrugged off his recent disappointment of engine failure in Hungary when victory was in his grasp. “We need to look forward, not back,” he said. “We know we still have 70 points in front of us and need to do our best to recover. For sure looking back it would have been a great moment to win that race, but sometimes the sport is like that. The great thing is we were very competitive, especially in qualifying and able fight for pole, but I didn’t do a good lap. But in the race we showed our performance. I think we showed that we are there and that’s the most important thing for the next races.”

Alonso wants to make a public demonstration of respect for those who died in this week's Spanair plane crash, Spain’s worst air accident in two decades. “It was a great shock to our nation,” he said. “I will be asking the other drivers to observe a minute’s silence before practice tomorrow.”

David Tremayne