Q&A with Renaults Fernando Alonso 03 Aug 2008
After Nelson Piquets strong performance on Friday, qualifying in Hungary saw the normal pecking order renewed at Renault with Fernando Alonso taking seventh to his younger team mates 10th. Tyres are still a big issue with the French squad, but Alonso seems calm and unagitated, giving the impression that he has accepted his lot for this season and is now simply trying to make the best out of the car, wherever it may take him in the final standings
Q: Fernando, how did the car perform during the practice sessions? Better than expected?
Fernando Alonso: In the last couple of rounds it was basically the same as at the last GP in Hockenheim. And as we made it into Q3 we will fight for the highest position possible in the race. My guess is somewhere between P5 and P7. But overall I can say that the car is quite the same as at the last GP.
Q: How are the tyres performing?
FA: For us the tyres are way too soft. We have a lot of graining with both types of tyres. Doing one lap is not a problem, but for longer runs it is for sure a big concern. Usually during the Friday sessions we have problems with the tyres, Saturday we have less problems and for the race it should be okay. So I think on Sunday it will be much better than we have seen it in practice and qualifying. On Friday we tried to run some laps with the tyres, to see whether they improved for the following laps so we could push harder. We did not get a clear answer, so we still have to understand and learn more about the behaviour on our car. We have seen throughout the last couple of races that if the tyres had an easy life in the first laps, it may be more consistent. But during the race it is very difficult to find a compromise - after a pit stop for example.
Q: With the competitiveness of the car, do you see a certain pattern, depending on whether Bridgestone brings the harder compound as in Hockenheim, or the softer like here in Budapest?
FA: For whatever reason the softer compound seems to work better for us, because in Canada or Monaco we where quite happy with the performance of the car. The races like Silverstone or Hockenheim with the hard compound, we were underperforming a little bit. I am happy to run with this compound here, even though it is a very difficult track for acceleration and traction, so we know that it is a very difficult weekend for us.
Q: Did you expect more out of qualifying?
FA: Actually not. Most of it went as we expected. Maybe a little more in Q1 and Q2, as we where suffering a bit, and I was P10 in Q1 and P8 in Q2, and at the last race I was P5 or P6. But in Q3 we where expecting P8 or at least P10, which was our prediction. But now with having P7 it is a very good position for the very conservative strategy that we have chosen, and we are very happy with this result. So for Sunday it is very important to have both cars in the top 10, to score as many championship points as possible. Especially here, where Toyota is quite strong, as this is like a defending race for us, because Toyota can theoretically score more points than we can.
Q: Do you think McLaren has the quickest car on the grid?
FA: I would say yes, as it seems that they have a little advantage over Ferrari at the moment. But we will see how much once they made their pit stops. They have been winning the last two races, and also I would say that the chance is about 90 percent that they will also win Sundays race. They are P1 and P2 and it will be very difficult to catch them at all in the race.
Q: Do you see a chance to gain some places in the race?
FA: In fact no, as all six cars in front of us have been quicker all weekend long. For us it will be more or less impossible to gain places against McLaren, Ferrari, BMW or Toyota, unless they have problems themselves.
Q: How important at this stage are simulations and engineers?
FA: Of course they are extremely important. As we could see two races ago Ferrari was the quickest car, and now it is the McLaren. So due to consistent work in the right direction you can gain a tenth here and there. But this could also change within the next two races. You need to tell the right information to the engineers so they can work to find where the weaknesses of the car are.
Q: Are you looking forward to Valencia and how do you prepare for it?
FA: I am really looking forward to Valencia, and I think we all are! It is Spain, it is summer, so we will all enjoy and it will be a big party time for Formula One. In terms of preparation I watched some videos from Formula Three and what I have seen is that the circuit seems to be very well prepared, even though there is still some work to do before Formula One arrives. But its not like a normal street course. It seems very wide, more like an American type of street circuit. Unfortunately we do not have any simulator with the ability of simulating this kind of course. Luckily I had a friend at the Formula Three race in Valencia who did a lap in a normal road car with a camera. But unless you run with a Formula One car, most of the things are useless. For Valencia we need to maximize the Friday practice when we arrive there, as this is the only way to improve.