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Alonso, Fisichella: victory in Melbourne? 01 Mar 2005

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R25. Formula One Testing, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, 15-18 February 2005. World © Capilitan/Sutton Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R25. Formula One Testing, Valencia, Spain, 2 February 2005. World © McNeil/Sutton (L to R): Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault, Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault. Renault R25 Launch, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, 1 February 2005. World © Hartley/Sutton Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R25 Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 7-11 February 2005. World © Bumstead/Sutton

Renault are being widely tipped as victory contenders in Melbourne thanks to the impressive form shown by their new R25 car in testing. They also have one of the strongest driver line-ups in the shape of Fernando Alonso and new team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. So how do the men themselves rate their chances for round one?

Q: Fernando, how happy are you with preparations for the first race?
Fernando Alonso:
We are ready for Melbourne. We have done a lot of running since the new car was launched, and learned a lot about the R25 - more than in previous winters. In our last big test in Barcelona, we still had some reliability problems, but that is normal at this stage of the year and the team has worked hard to get on top of them since then. I think we understand the car well, and have made good progress with its driveability and performance in recent test sessions. Overall, it was a successful winter for the team.

Q: What is your assessment of the R25 after testing?
I am much more confident with this car. It is easy to drive, and you can run on the limit without any nasty surprises in how the behaviour changes over long runs. It is a very consistent car.

Q: The Australian Grand Prix will also be the first race with the new tyre regulations. How do you view the tyre situation?
Michelin have done an excellent job and in terms of performance and consistency, these are the best tyres I have ever had in Formula One. But we cannot get too excited, because we have only run on cold circuits over the winter and the first three races will be held in much warmer conditions. We will evaluate the tyre performance very carefully during the race weekend, and see where we stand after that.

Q: What are expectations for the R25 in Melbourne?
I don’t think Melbourne is a perfect circuit for us. Other tracks will suit our car better, but looking at the winter testing times, I hope we will be very competitive. The secret for the weekend will be to avoid problems, because nobody can afford to lose track time at the first race of the year. With a new car, and on a circuit that we only visit once a season, you need to do as many laps as possible to work on the set-up and get used to the track. So our main priority will be for the weekend to run smoothly, so we can do a maximum number of laps. In terms of competitiveness, I expect Ferrari to be the number one team still, and McLaren have looked very strong during the winter. I think those two teams will be our biggest rivals.

Q: Giancarlo, how are you feeling ahead of the opening race of the year?
Giancarlo Fisichella:
Things look good for us. We have a strong package, the R25 has done lots of miles over the winter and the set-up is getting better and better. I am confident in the car, and pleased with our level of performance. In testing, we have almost always been among the quickest teams, so we hope that it can translate to race conditions.

Q: You will have to face a number of changes to the regulations in 2005: which will be the biggest of these?
I think the new tyre rules are definitely the biggest change. In the last ten or fifteen laps of the race, the car will be much more difficult to drive because the rear end gets very loose as the tyres wear, and it’s much easier to make mistakes. The key thing will be to make fewer mistakes than the other drivers.

Q: How does the R25 perform in these conditions?
The tyre wear looks good with this car, and during testing in Barcelona I was able to set my quickest laps at the end of my stints. The R25 is a big step forward in every area, but in particular, the rear-end stability is much better and the balance is much more consistent on the long runs: that means it is a lot easier to set consistent lap-times over the race distance.

Q: Overall, what are your expectations for Melbourne?
The Albert Park circuit is not my favourite, but my results there have always been pretty good, and I enjoy the atmosphere during the weekend. For the first time, I am going to Melbourne hoping to fight for the race win.

Alonso finished third for Renault at Albert Park in 2004, with then team mate Jarno Trulli seventh. Fisichella was tenth for Sauber.