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Interview - Renault's Jose-Maria Lopez 04 Dec 2003

Jose-Maria Lopez

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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.