Interview - Renaults Jose-Maria Lopez 04 Dec 2003
As part of Renault's Driver Development Programme, Argentinean driver Jose-Maria Lopez got his first taste of Formula One this week when he tested the R23 in Barcelona. Afterwards, the 20-year-old spoke to Renault's press department about his experience.
Q: Jose-Maria, how did your test in the R23 go?
Jose-Maria Lopez: It was an unforgettable experience. It was very intense, and represented another first in my career. Having said that, it is just a step. In a more precise sense, I also hope I met the engineers' expectations.
Q: What was your feeling when you first went out on track in an F1 car?
JML: I was feeling lots of different things: happy, of course, and a little bit of emotion, because I was achieving a dream. My father and brother were there as well. From a purely professional point of view, it was fantastic. The team did everything to give me the best possible conditions to work in, and the track was amazing! But I just tried to stay calm and concentrate: when you are playing with 800bhp, you don't try and show off. The power and the braking were incredible.
Q: How did you cope physically?
JML: Fine, even if the first few times I hit the brakes, it caught my neck a bit by surprise! Once we had got my seating position exactly right, everything was perfect. It was just a shame that I couldn't get in a good final run on new tyres yesterday: I had made a good start to the lap when the engine failed.
Q: And of course, the rain today didn't help things for you?
JML: Yes, the conditions were difficult, but driving in the wet is another way for the Renault engineers to assess my behaviour out on the circuit. In other categories, I never had a problem driving in the wet, and you feel very safe in an F1 car: the tyres, the brakes and the car itself all reassure you.
Q: However, the weather must have disrupted the work you and the engineers had planned?
JML: Clearly, it wasn't easy working in the conditions. We did try and make some set-up changes, but it then got very wet indeed. Overall, I think the times I set were respectable (1:32.751 for his best lap) and there were no mistakes.
Q: So what does the future hold?
JML: I will know better after another test next week at Vallelunga with Minardi, and the management of the RDD will tell me more. In any case, I particularly want to thank the Renault F1 Team, who gave me a fantastic welcome.