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Alonso ready to race as focus switches from Paris to Spa 14 Sep 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 13 September 2007 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 13 September 2007 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 13 September 2007 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 13 September 2007 Adrian Sutil (GER) Spyker in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 13 September 2007

The $100m fine imposed on McLaren by the World Motor Sport Council, and the cancellation of all the team’s points in the 2007 world championship for constructors, was the sole talking point at Spa yesterday, when it finally filtered down around 7pm.

And throughout the afternoon, world champion Fernando Alonso steadfastly refused to be drawn on his feelings about what was happening in Paris even though, at one stage, he had no idea whether he really would be able to compete this weekend.

“I’m not thinking about anything outside here in the paddock,” he said, when he wasn’t simply saying no comment. “I have a meeting with engineers now preparing the strategy for tomorrow, which tyres we are using in P1 and which in P2. I was checking the forecast for all weekend, the set-up, comparing the test we did in July, the updates that are on the car... So any more than this I am not ready to think. My 100 percent concentration will be in this paddock, in this track and on winning this race. Other than that I will not have even two seconds of thinking.”

On the technical front, however, if on no other, McLaren feel optimistic after a very quick performance in the test here in July. As they did in Monza, they now intend to do their talking on the track.

“I think that for us, that test was just about tyres and about not much more than that. I think the chassis will be completely different, the aero package we are running now is completely different, the engine as well, so the car will be much much quicker this time.”

Two other teams particularly come here with guarded optimism. BMW Sauber were very fast in July, and Robert Kubica is well up for it. “I have been racing here a few times, in Formula Three last time in 2003. I prefer the last version, so the old version of the chicane, but, of course, this is how it is and still I enjoy Spa very much, especially driving a Formula One car here in July when we were testing here. The three days of testing went pretty good. We have improved the car a bit since last time we were here, but of course this is a different aerodynamic configuration track compared to Hungary, for example, and Monza. We will see on Friday. We still have a bit of time to set up the car and tune it and we hope we will be at the same competitive level as in Monza.”

That is Nico Rosberg’s hope in the Williams, too. They had a poor test prior to Monza, yet still flew there, and the German hopes the same thing will prove to be the case this weekend.

“I’m not sure (where we are),” he admitted. “I think more than getting closer to BMW, we have really established ourselves as top of the mid-pack in the last few races, which really is fantastic because everybody was saying that Williams was probably going to drop off in performance towards the end, as the others pick up their development pace and everything, and in fact we’ve been the ones developing quickest of all, pace-wise. So it’s been very reassuring and very nice to see, and it’s been great to have some good results lately.

“I hope that continues. I’m not sure. We’re going to have to see. We didn’t have a particularly great test here, but then again, we’ve surprised ourselves lately, also in Istanbul, so I can probably come here looking at it quite positively.”

Everyone loves Spa, but there are still some reservations about the pit lane entry in the revised final corner.

“I was one of them who was not happy with the pit entrance,” said Felipe Massa. “It is very narrow, we have a lot of space there to do a nice job and for me the job was not very well done. I didn’t check if they changed the pit lane entrance but I think it was mentioned in the briefing with (FIA race director) Charlie (Whiting) and he is going to work on that but I don’t know…”

Adrian Sutil added: “I was walking around there and I had a look. It is very narrow around there. They said two cars could come through there but I think the measurement is exactly two cars and not more, so we have to be rim-on-rim then we can go through there. So if there is something wrong, if some car is stopping there, you can’t pass him. So I think it is just really bad pit entry. I don’t like it, it is too narrow.”

David Tremayne