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Q&A: Alonso on Renault, Ferrari and McLaren 31 Oct 2009

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault walks the circuit.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Preparations, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Thursday, 29  October 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29 in qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29 in qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Preparations, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Thursday, 29  October 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29 in the third practice session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009

There are a lot of farewells going on in the paddock this weekend. BMW says goodbye to Formula One racing and many drivers are bidding adieu to their respective teams in favour of new cockpits for 2010. One of the most interesting changes will see Fernando Alonso move from Renault to Ferrari. After many seasons together, and two world titles, Alonso is leaving the French team with mixed feelings, despite his relatively poor showing in Abu Dhabi on Saturday...

Q: Did you expect to finish qualifying here in Abu Dhabi at the back end of the grid?
Fernando Alonso:
Well, actually somehow yes. We’ve spent most of this season’s qualifying like this, in very difficult conditions. But at the last couple of races, we managed to get through Q1, and even sometimes to get into Q3. Also a few times the conditions have helped us, like in Suzuka where we had the first couple of laps in dry conditions. Or in Brazil, where we had the wet conditions. And we have also had some luck, too. Whereas today, where we have had no surprises and are at a circuit that is new to all of us, we have dropped out in Q1. This is more or less what we expected. Of course it would have been nice with it being the very last race with Renault to get into the position of being able to win a race. In this case this is more like a dream, as we know where we are, and we have not been competitive for the last part of the championship. I know that Romain (Grosjean) and myself are doing the maximum. Also the team knows that I have done 100 percent throughout the last seven years, so this has for sure not changed for the last race.

Q: You’ve now had your last qualifying for Renault. Is it getting emotional for you, the engineers and mechanics?
FA:
Of course, the closer you come to the last race the more emotions are involved. Today when we arranged my overall and helmet and went for the last time into qualifying, there are a lot of emotions involved. Also tomorrow I think that this will be the same, when I will be on the grid for the last time with Renault, and do the last interviews there, and then the mechanics leave for the formation lap. That will be a very emotional moment. At the same time it will be a sad and a happy feeling, as I know that this is the last race and I am very relaxed and happy about the past years.

Q: McLaren and Ferrari had a very bad start to this season, and now McLaren has closed the gap, but Ferrari have not. Are you worried about what to expect for next season at your new team?
FA:
No, not at all. Both started at the back during this season. I think McLaren started even worst, and now they have possibly the best car on the grid. Here they have been very dominant throughout the weekend, and also in Brazil, where they only had problems during qualifying with the too wet conditions. In the end Hamilton finished on the podium in Brazil. McLaren have pushed with some new developments for this year during the season, and Ferrari did not. If you compare this with last season, we were on the podium in Brazil, and everybody thought that Renault would have a very strong car this year. So the last races do not mean a lot in general. So I think every first race is completely unknown for everybody.

Q: How much will you be involved in the development of the next year’s Ferrari?
FA:
Not a lot, as we are only drivers and not engineers, especially for me, as I will not get to drive the car. And this doesn’t give me a lot of chances to give any input up until February 2010, when I’ll get to drive the car for the first time. Up until that point I will try to understand how the team works and prepare for the winter testing as well as I can.

Q: Why do you think the Renault has been so poor this year?
FA:
Aerodynamics was the key issue this year, and also for the last couple of years. Especially with the new rules for 2009, the philosophy of the car did not meet the new regulations and has not been good enough to be competitive. But we also have to consider the developments throughout the season. Sometimes when we introduced new parts to the car we were able to be the third fastest car in the field. But then we decided to stop developing the car further this year, and so did Ferrari too, and concentrate more on next year’s car. For sure you are paying back at every race after you make this decision, and now arriving at the last race, with the same car that you had for the last five months, it is just normal that you will end up at the back.

Q: Would developments this year not help you to have a better car next year?
FA:
The rules for next year will not change as dramatically as the ones for this year did, but the thinner front tyre and bigger (fuel) tanks will change some things. So we have to prepare the car in a totally different way, with the changed fuel loads, so this did not help us for this year. I am very sure that before the first race of next season we will not know who will have a competitive car. So in this respect I am very happy that my new team stopped developing early and concentrated on next year. Also Renault has stopped and concentrated on next season, so I hope that they will have a quick car for next year, too.