Exclusive interview - Fernando Alonso 15 Oct 2005
Always regarded as a champion in the making, this year Fernando Alonso has lived up to his promise, becoming the youngest man to win the Formula One drivers title. Ahead of this weekend's season finale, the Spaniard talks to formula1.com about his best campaign yet - from a professional and a personal point of view...
Q: At the start of the year, did you expect to be leading the championship halfway through the season, never mind at the end of it?
Fernando Alonso: The truth is no. We knew that the car was good, gave good feedback, but to even reach half of the season in first position - and in both championships - was a dream for me and the team.
Q: In Canada things had been going pretty well, but then you hit the wall and your team mate retired. Renault missed out on a lot of points that day
FA: Yes, we lost a good opportunity, and right on a day where everything went so well for us. Well, everything also went well for McLaren at the Nurburgring, and they didnt finish the race. In the end the game was open again.
Q: Are you happy with the way team has responded to you this year? Last year you werent always entirely happy
FA: I am contented, but there are always circumstances and decisions that from outside the car are seen in one way and inside (the car) in another. But in general I am contented because the car goes well, everybody is motivated and one can feel that there is ambition in the team.
Q: Does this strong bond with the team mean your relationship with Flavio Briatore has improved further too?
FA: Yes, it is better than ever now. But for no special reason, maybe just because of the course of time. It is now the fourth or fifth time that we are going to Kenya together for physical training, whereas this year was the first time that Giancarlo (Fisichella) went, for example. Everybody is much more confident with you, and when the Grand Prix starts, Flavio takes many more decisions off you. Now that things go well, he enjoys the races more, and he lets everybody feel that.
Q: Do you think that affection for Formula One racing is becoming the norm in Spain now?
FA: Yes, I believe that, yes. It is a new sport for us and a lot of people are starting to get deeper into it, they follow the races carefully and as a sport of the masses, it reaches all kind of people.
Q: What does winning the championship mean to you?
FA: To gain the championship as the youngest ever did not matter to me - what mattered to me was to do it at all. I have gained it because it was a good year and just because I have scored more points than the others. But the world would not have ended for me if I wouldnt have won it. Every year, 20 pilots start the season with the aim of scoring more points than the others, and this year it just happened to be me.
Q: Throughout the season, certain elements of the media were suggesting that this year the best driver may not necessarily become world champion. How do you respond to that?
FA: For my, the champion is the one that scores the most points, like Michael (Schumacher) has done the previous years. Perhaps he was not the best pilot in the field, but after gaining seven titles nobody would doubt that. I hope to be able to gain several titles and that nobody doubts it anymore.
Q: And to the ones that say you were just lucky, and that Kimi Raikkonen was not?
FA: Considering the bad luck that I had in previous years, I can say that this year I was very lucky. And I do not believe that Kimi has had so much bad luck, since the McLaren engines blew most of the times during free practice and not in the races.
Q: Some have accused you of being too conservative this year. How many times in your racing career have you had to raise your foot off the accelerator, like you did at Silverstone this year when you were fighting with Montoya?
FA: Never. But it is because when you collide with someone in karting, or most of the other series, nothing happens. But if I had collided with Montoya, I would have given away a good opportunity for nothing. F1 is no game. You must know that there are 300 million euros of budget behind you.
Q: Which was your most important victory of the 2005 season?
FA: Overall I remain with the one in Magny-Cours. For just race performance (not victory), I remain with the one I did in Australia.
Q: What has changed this year that has made everything go so well?
FA: I am the same, I have the same motivation, and I do not believe that since last year I have evolved that much as a pilot. The main reason is that this year the car is far better and far more reliable.
Q: How would you describe your evolution as a driver since you made your Formula One debut with Minardi in 2001?
FA: I have improved a little in everything. When I arrived at Minardi, my objective were to adapt to the series, and after five years racing in F1, I have improved much in the handling of the car, qualifying, the exits and strategies of races. I think that now I am able to race an intelligent and calm race. Within six or seven years, I am sure that I will have learned much (more) and I will also have improved further.