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Q&A with Renault's Alonso and Piquet 10 Mar 2008

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault Formula One Testing, Day Two, Jerez, Spain, 13 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault R28 Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 25 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 19 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault Formula One Testing, Day Two, Jerez, Spain, 13 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault R28 makes a pitstop Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday 21 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton

Together, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and talented rookie Nelson Piquet Jr are shaping up to be one of this season’s most formidable team pairings. Of course, Renault team mates Alonso and Piquet can only do so much, and a lot of their success this season will be dependant on the performance of the French team’s R28.

Here the duo reflects on their progress over the winter break and look ahead to what they hope to achieve over the coming months…

Q: Fernando, you rejoined the team in January to prepare for the 2008 season. How did you find your first few weeks of work with the team?
Fernando Alonso:
They have been very busy! All has gone well in terms of my arrival and it felt a bit like coming home. I already know everybody; I know the way the team works and I was able to start working well with the team immediately, right from the first test. As with any new car we worked hard on the reliability and then started working on the development towards the end of February with the arrival of the latest parts. I did nearly fifteen days of testing between January and February so that I could arrive in Australia as ready as I can be for the new season.

Q: Do you think that the team has succeeded in overcoming the problems of 2007 and will you be ready to fight at the front of the field at the beginning of the season?
The team was far behind in 2007 and it would have been impossible to overcome that gap this winter. The other teams have also progressed and so it will certainly take a little time to reach a higher level, but I am convinced that we have the potential to get there. The team has shown in the past that they know how to produce a winning car; we just need to continue our efforts and to make sure we don’t lose ground.

Q: After winter testing, which teams do you expect to be strongest at the start of the championship?
It’s difficult to say with certainty before the first session in Melbourne. All the teams have worked on different programmes during winter testing and so we cannot really predict how things will be. I think that Ferrari will be the team to beat during the first few races - they were strong during 2007 and seem to have performed well over the winter. The first race will be the first real chance to see how the teams compare with each other, and we will then have a better idea of our competitiveness.

Q: Do you expect a difficult first race in Albert Park?
The first race will not be easy, but I am looking forward to it and the beginning of the championship. Many challenges await the Renault, but we have worked hard these last few months and it is now time for the racing to begin. I know that a win or a podium in Australia will be difficult, but you never know what can happen during the race. It may rain; the race may take place on a drying track and you can have the chance to spring a surprise. If an opportunity presents itself, I am ready to seize it.

Q: Nelson, you are only a few days away from you first Formula One race. What is your state of mind at the moment?
Nelson Piquet:
These last few weeks have been busy with testing and I have been concentrating on my work and preparation so that I am ready for Melbourne. But I still don’t feel like a race driver yet because I have only been doing testing, just like I was last year as the third driver for the Renault team. I think that when I arrive at the track and start working with my engineers I will begin to realise what I am about to do.

Q: You have covered a lot of laps this winter. How did it feel to get behind the wheel of the R28?
Yes, I have done lots of running this winter, which was essential for my physical and technical preparation. I feel I have progressed a lot during testing and I feel at ease in the R28. We still need to work hard to improve our performance, but the whole team is determined, and there is a good feeling in the team. Everyone is giving their maximum to take the team forwards and I am doing the same.

Q: What are you expecting from your first Grand Prix?
It is a new circuit for me and I hope that I can find my feet quickly. I feel I have done everything in order to be ready, but the only way to get fully prepared is to do laps on the circuit. Only then can you really have an idea of the layout of the track, how to use the cubs and the best lines. I need to work well with my engineers to set up my car and then I need to get the best of it. I’m very competitive and I would like to score points in my first race, but I recognise that these things can take time. Above all, I want to approach this first race calmly, one step at a time.

Q: You completed numerous race simulations as part of your preparation during the last test. Do you feel you are ready to contest a race?
I had the opportunity to do many laps this winter, so today I am physically prepared, although I have my doubts as to whether the Malaysian Grand Prix will be as easy! As a team we have gone through the different procedures that I will have to deal with during races, because racing is different to testing and I know that I will face new pressures. I think that I am ready, and above all I am looking forward to the start of the season. I have worked all my life to get here, and it is a great feeling to be starting my first race in Melbourne. I’m conscious that I have a lot to prove this year, but I’m determined to do my best.