Exclusive Q&A - Fernando Alonso 07 Jul 2006
Despite the small hiccup in Indianapolis, Fernando Alonso is currently 19 points ahead in the drivers championship and is well on track to retain his crown as world champion in 2006. The Spaniards enviable lead over nearest rival Michael Schumacher is undoubtedly a cause for celebration. But Alonso remains as levelheaded as ever and is quick to point out that this is Formula One racing and anything can happen. So - for now at least - the current world champion is determined to play down speculation that victory is a sure thing
Q: At the beginning of the season you said that you think you can win the championship again. After 10 races and with a good lead in the championship table, is the chance of you winning a certainty?
Fernando Alonso: Anything but a certainty! People seem to think that we have an easy dominance at Renault, or that our lead cannot be caught, but from the inside it is not easy. We saw in Indianapolis that to maintain our position, every part of the package must be perfect each weekend. We need to carry on being aggressive with the development, like we have been so far. The beginning of the season was better than expected, but it will be won or lost in the summer. For sure, we prefer to go into these next races with a lead and not a deficit, because that means the pressure is on our rivals. But we are taking nothing for granted, and we will attack all the way to the end of the season.
Q: Why are Renault so dominant this season?
FA: I think we were 100 percent ready for the first race. With the new rules about the engine, and with a brand new car for the V8 engine, we were a little bit worried about the competitiveness at the start. But the team had a fantastic winter and when we got to Bahrain, we were 100 percent ready. Winning those opening races was crucial. But now, we have shown that we can develop the car as well, with a lot of new parts. And Michelin have done a fantastic job, with the best tyres at 9 of 10 races. Every part of the team is working very well.
Q: Indianapolis was the first race this season where you didnt finish on the podium. Do you like the track? Looking forward to next weekend in Magny-Cours - will the Spanish flag be flying on the podium?
FA: It is not my favourite circuit, but I dont know why I have never had a good result there. Last week, we did not have the grip in the race and we never got the car to work right. But I dont think that this is the trend for the season now. After 2005, we had to be careful at Indianapolis, but I think the normal situation will return in Magny-Cours. That doesnt mean we will win automatically, but it will be a very close fight with Ferrari again - and the tyre manufacturer who does the best job, will give their team the advantage.
Q: Which races do you think will secure you the championship?
FA: I think they are all big races. For sure, in France it will be important for Renault to be strong. First, because it is a special race - the centenary of the Grand Prix, and the home race for Renault, Elf and Michelin. But also to be competitive with Ferrari and have a more normal situation. Every race we maintain the gap to Ferrari, it becomes harder for them to catch us. But you cannot afford to retire at all, that is the key. Any race where a retirement happens will become a big race.
Q: With the new engine agreement just around the corner and the realisation that Renault is in the best position when the freeze becomes effective in 2007 - any regrets on committing yourself to McLaren too early?
FA: No, it doesnt make me question my decision. Everybody knows the reasons why I chose to move on to a new challenge, and this doesnt alter them.
Q: You have grown up at Renault and know perfectly how the team functions and what it is capable of. What do you expect from your future team and how will you deal with the much more political environment there - at Renault there is Flavio Briatore but at McLaren Mercedes there is a dual management?
FA: Politics are not my concern, that is to be driving the car. One of the challenges will be to learn to work with new people, and a new team, but this was one of the challenges I was looking for.
Q: It looks like you might be swapping cockpits with Kimi Raikkonen
FA: I dont know what will happen for the other drivers, all I know is that I will do my maximum for Renault until the end of 2006 and for my new team after that.
Q: Earlier in the season, Renaults CEO Carlos Ghosn made it very clear that Renaults commitment to Formula One racing depends on the teams ability to win and at Indianapolis last weekend DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche expressed the same belief. The pressure is probably more on McLaren, as their last win was quite some time ago. How do you feel about this?
FA: I am used to racing for a big manufacturer. These days, with the big companies and manufacturers in Formula One, you cannot do crazy things any more. You have to be professional, even during the off season. Sure, we enjoy our jobs, but you have to train, to do sponsor days, and all these things. I dont think that is so different from team to team. The priority for me is to drive the car well and do the maximum in the car.