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Q&A with Renault’s Fernando Alonso 21 Mar 2008

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault signs autographs.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 15 March 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 (L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault with Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and Raquel del Rosario (ESP) partner of Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008

Fighting for fourth place at last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix seemed to be as big a challenge for Renault’s Fernando Alonso as his numerous wins of the past. And strangely, Alonso seemed to enjoy every second of that fraught Melbourne struggle, even though the rewards were much smaller.

The question now is how long will the double world champion find pleasure in the nitty-gritty of gathering the occasional point, before frustration gets the better of him…

Q: Fernando, how good or bad is the car, in reality?
Fernando Alonso:
To be honest, we have been lucky with our situation in Melbourne. In reality we are not very competitive. After the winter testing we already know that we were not close enough to fight for important things. We are well behind Ferrari, McLaren and BMW and we are stuck in that group with Red Bull, Williams and Toyota. Sometimes, and that is depending on the track, the strategy and the set-up, we come in front of them, sometimes we will be behind. So the situation is that we have to work hard to improve the car, we need to work better to lead that group of cars and eventually get closer to the top three.

Q: How optimistic are you that you can reach that in a reasonable time?
FA:
I am optimistic. It is only the second race of the championship so at that time of the year you are always optimistic to improve the car and to close the gap. But we all know that in Formula One nothing is sure and if we improve, the others will improve as well. So it is just up to us that we do a better job than the others.

Q: Are the developments going on back at the factory making you confident?
FA:
Yes. It is a fact that the top teams are quite at the limit of their development as they are trying to optimise their performance in the scope of the last couple of tenths, whereas we need to look for an overall better performance. I think that it is easier to improve a car like ours than to find those last missing tenths on a broad variety of possible causes.

Q: What would you say is the bigger challenge for you personally - to fight to close the gap, as you have to do now, or to fight for wins like in the last three years?
FA:
Well, at the moment it is a very interesting race situation as I am fighting in the middle of a group with its own specific dynamics. I am enjoying this new challenge, but don’t get me wrong, as interesting as it may seem, our goal is to improve the car and close the gap to the frontrunner teams. In the end, we are here to win races and not fight in midfield - even if the battles are refreshing.

Q: Do you have an idea now of where you are losing the most time - what are the weak spots of the R28?
FA:
Basically we need to improve everything - starting from the aerodynamics, we need more downforce, and we have probably not found a hundred percent answer to the Bridgestone tyres so far, so we have to look into all areas of the car. Looking at lap times I would say that we lose one to two seconds every lap - probably losing some seven tenths in the first sector, six tenths in the second and six tenths in the third so you more or less lose in every corner of the track. And this is a situation we have to concentrate on.

Q: Last year rain affected a fair few race results. There is rain forecast for Sunday. Can that mean the unexpected?
FA:
This track here is one of my favourites. Here I always give at least 120 percent. And even if rain could mix up the result, it would not be the same for me. So let’s wait and see what Sunday brings.

Q: Speaking of difficult race conditions, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton are among the drivers who are not members of the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association). Should they be criticised for that?
FA:
Well, I think everyone has his own option. The GPDA has improved the safety of all drivers in the last couple of years. We check the circuit before arriving, we are in close contact with the FIA. We have improved the safety of the tests with doctors, helicopters and ambulances - the same standard like in the race. Before we were testing a bit like a kamikaze. I think we have done a very good job over the last couple of years. But it is everybody’s free decision to join. I joined because I simply did not want to risk my life in the car - but that was me.