Q&A with Renault's Alonso and Fisichella 01 Feb 2005
Having completed their first test programme with the car in Valencia last week, Renault drivers Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella were on hand to witness the official unveiling of the R25 in Monaco on Tuesday. They spoke to the team about their first impressions of the new machine and their prospects for 2005.
Q: Fernando, tell us about the R25?
Fernando Alonso: The first feeling with a car is very important. When I saw the R25 in the garage last week, I was very impressed: I had seen the wind tunnel model, but it was still a surprise to see how good it looked. It might be quite similar to the old one at first sight, but there are lots of new things: the sidepods are much tighter, and the cooling and exhaust exits are very different for example. The first impression was very good on the track. I felt that I could trust the responses of the R25 straight away.
Q: How does the handling compare to last year's car?
FA: The R25 feels more constant on the long runs. We cannot compare them directly because the downforce levels are lower for 2005, but compared to our interim car, the traction and braking stability are much better, which will be very important on the long distance tyres for 2005. The car responded as we expected to the first set-up changes, and we now need to concentrate on understanding its character and pushing forward on performance. I still have some work to do to adapt the car to my style, but that is a normal part of the learning process.
Q: The RS25 engine is also brand new: how did it perform?
FA: The RS25 was a very nice surprise: from the driver's seat it felt more powerful straight away and I was impressed with the driveability. With the new regulations doubling the life of the engine, the team at Viry has done a fantastic job to produce a stronger V10. We still need to fine-tune its characteristics to exploit the potential, in areas like throttle mapping and traction control, but that is only a matter of time.
Q: The team's aim is to be fighting with Ferrari: can you do it?
FA: I won't have any clear expectations until we arrive in Melbourne but in terms of what I hope for, I would like to be fighting for victories this year. Mentally, I am stronger and even better prepared. We need to be quick during the race weekends and fighting at the front of the field for podiums and wins. It will be a long season, and it is a big job to be competitive against our rivals, but I am confident in the work of the team during the winter. In 2004, we were always battling for the podium places. Now, we must take the next step.
Q: Giancarlo, do you feel ready for the season ahead of you?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Absolutely. It is a good feeling to be back with this team: I know the people well, they know me and we have worked hard during the winter to get things working smoothly. Since I was last at the team, though, the ambitions have changed: Renault are in Formula One to win the world championship and it is a privilege that they have chosen me to be part of it. It is important to feel they have confidence in me and from my point of view, I am excited to be in a top team that I know can win races.
Q: For 2005, the engine must last for two weekends: what is it like to drive the RS25?
GF: I could tell straight away it is stronger. When we ran in Valencia, there was still work to do to fine-tune the mapping, but I could feel it was better in the mid-range and at the top end. Things look quite positive at this point.
Q: You had your first taste of the R25 last week: how was it?
GF: I was very excited as soon as I saw the car - the shape is very aggressive, and even in the garage I had a good feeling with it. When I did the first lap, I was comfortable straight away and had confidence with the car. The biggest difference to the R24 is in rear end stability: the new car is much more consistent through the corners, and if it does break away, it is more predictable and easier to control. There are not many kerbs in Valencia, but it felt like the ride was better too. Overall, I think it is definitely a good step forward.
Q: Some people have said that your smooth style will suit the 2005 regulations: what do you think?
GF: I hope it will. I have a lot of experience running long stints in the races, and have learned a lot about race strategy since I was last with the team. This year, we will have to be quick but also save the tyres during the race, and I hope I can do that with this car. For the moment, the signs are quite promising. Of course, we cannot be sure until we arrive in Melbourne, but what I can be sure of is this: before driving the car I was already looking forward to the season; now, I am really looking forward to it!