Best of (team) mates - Trulli and Alonso 24 Nov 2003
Some teams actively encourage rivalry between their drivers, believing it to form a vital piece of a driver's motivation. Take Williams, who have a history of intra-team feuds, the most famous including those between Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet and, before them, Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann.
At Renault, however, it's different. The team is enjoying a period of unprecedented harmony between its drivers. Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso compete on the track yet are great buddies off it, creating a jovial atmosphere in the team which they believe helps to speed up the development of their car.
The fantastic relationship between Trulli and Alonso, combined with their tremendous successes on the track this year, disproves the theory about rivalry being a key motivator for a Formula One driver. It is because they get on so well that they have just given Renault their most successful season for eight years.
"Everybody thinks that because we are friends we cannot push each other hard on the track," says Trulli. "I think it is the opposite of that. Because Fernando and I like and respect each other, we share everything about the car and this pushes the whole project forward. That is one of the reasons why I think we have been competitive throughout 2003, and not just at selected races."
The relationship between Trulli and Alonso is as refreshing as it is novel, and its sincerity is proved by the amount of time they spend together away from the racetrack. They live near each other in England - Trulli in Wokingham and Alonso in Oxford - and meet up frequently in restaurants near Renault's Enstone base for dinner, both during the summer and winter. They even go on holiday together.
You can psychoanalyse their relationship in minute detail, believing it to be unhealthy for two fast and hungry drivers to be so comfortable around each other. But you soon learn from talking to them that their relationship stems from respect - like Ronaldo respects David Beckham and, as a result, invites him round to dinner in Madrid.
Trulli knows that Alonso has a big future in Formula One racing because, in only his second season at the top echelon, Fernando has taken his first pole position and his first win - becoming the youngest ever driver to do so. After eight years in Formula One racing, Trulli's future depends on him staying close to Fernando on the stop watch - which he has done. He is comfortable with his performance and doesn't need to embark on petty mind games with his team-mate.
For Alonso, driving racing cars comes so naturally that he doesn't have to alter his laid-back manana persona, so he lets their off-track friendship blossom. It would be a weakness to have it any other way.
(The above is an edited extract from a much longer feature on the Renault team mates. It is available exclusively in the December issue of Formula 1 Magazine.)