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Can Renault make it a triple in Bahrain? 29 Mar 2005

(L to R): Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, 18 March 2005

Alonso and Fisichella on their chances of another win

A win apiece for Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella has put Renault firmly on top of the 2005 championship standings. But can they do it again in Bahrain? The drivers spoke to the team’s press office about their prospects for the coming weekend...

Q: Fernando, you took your second career win in Malaysia: what was the feeling like afterwards?
Fernando Alonso:
It was a great feeling, to be able to lead all the way from pole position and take quite a comfortable win. The conditions were very demanding, and Sepang is never an easy circuit at which to race, but the car was easy to drive and after the first stint, I was looking after everything in the car and managing my gap to Jarno. The team has done a fantastic job over the winter on the R25 and RS25: we tested very intensively to make the whole package reliable and so far, it has been. On both the race weekends so far, we have managed to get the most out of our package, and that’s how we need to continue for the rest of the season.

Looking ahead to Bahrain, what are the challenges of the circuit?
In some ways, it is quite similar to Melbourne - there is a lot of hard acceleration and braking, without any really long, high-speed corners. But the long straights mean we run downforce levels quite low in order to get good straightline speed in the race, so the car can be nervous under braking - and if you run wide in the slow corners, like turns 10, 13 or 14, then you will be defending your position all the way down the next straight. Good braking stability, to avoid locking the tyres in the race, lots of mechanical grip and a strong engine are what you really need to be quick in Bahrain. We will need to think carefully about the set-up to keep the rear end stable in the race when the tyres are worn.

How competitive do you expect the R25 to be?
Well, the team is definitely on a high at the moment so we will go there feeling very optimistic, but it is hard to be certain. Michelin were very strong in high temperatures at Sepang, and even though the tyre energy is less in Bahrain, the heat will still make it very demanding, so I expect the tyres to be competitive. In terms of car performance, we have been the benchmark at the first two circuits, and I think this can continue in Bahrain - even though we were not very strong there last year. The big question is over our competitors, because so far, different teams have been our rivals at each race. I still think McLaren are very strong, and Ferrari will have their new car by then, but to be honest, we will not be concentrating on the other teams: we know how we need to approach the weekend, and what areas we must focus on. If we do that well, then I am confident we will be running at the front again.

Giancarlo, how are you feeling ahead of the Bahraini Grand Prix?
Giancarlo Fisichella:
Obviously, it was disappointing not to finish in Malaysia but I am still second in the drivers’ championship, we know the car is quick and that there are more developments coming. The team has had a fantastic start to the season, and the fact that we already have a gap in the constructors’ championship is reassuring. The car has performed well at every type of circuit we have visited this year, in winter testing and racing. The car is well balanced, easy to drive and looks after its tyres well. I am sure those factors will help us to be competitive in Bahrain too.

Q: Talking about the Sakhir circuit, what demands does it place on the drivers and the cars?
On the technical side, the main area the teams focus on is good braking performance, and managing the brake wear through the race: getting the cooling wrong can be very costly. Sakhir is not really a driver’s circuit - there are none of the high-speed corners that we enjoy, and that really show the difference between the cars. But we need to be precise, to get our braking right lap after lap and maintain concentration throughout the race in very hot, tough conditions.

Finally, what are your expectations for the race?
We saw in Malaysia that the R25 was the quickest car in the field, so I am hoping that we can maintain the performance in Bahrain. The car is good over the timed lap, and gives us the confidence to really push to the limit to get the performance; and in the race, the balance is very consistent meaning we only need small changes during the pit-stops. I know the team is working hard on developments for the European season, but we are not under-estimating our competitors: we will have a fight on our hands. But the car has good traction, good braking and the straight-line speeds have been very competitive at the first two races. That should provide us with the car we need to aim for the podium at this race.