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Q&A with Renault’s Fernando Alonso 26 Mar 2009

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 26 March 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29 Formula One Testing, 15 March 2009, Jerez, Spain. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 26 March 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29 Formula One Testing, 1-5 March 2009, Jerez, Spain. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Barcelona, Spain, 12 March 2009.

Renault’s Fernando Alonso has arrived in Melbourne very upbeat. His every move seems to show that he is ready to fight again, that he feels confident with his team and his new charge, and that he’s long since banished any thought of the grass being greener elsewhere. Here Alonso considers the new regulations, the French team’s adoption of KERS and the excitement of finally getting the season underway…

Q: How are you feeling about the 2009 season?
Fernando Alonso:
I feel very good, and I think we will have a very interesting season ahead of us. We have many changes in the regulations and all of us are looking forward to the race on Sunday. We are curious how competitive we are, because after the winter testing it is very difficult to say where we stand. But we will know very soon.

Q: Do you have your eye on any of the competitors in particular?
FA:
Well, one thing is for sure, we don’t underestimate anyone. There are so many options at the moment, so the championship seems to me very open, which makes it very exciting for us.

Q: Some people have said that the championship could be decided by the diffuser issue. What is your opinion on that?
FA:
No, I do not think so. Maybe the first couple of races some teams have an advantage, for example Brawn GP, as they have a different interpretation of the rules, so they might have an advantage there. But after the decision has been made, at least after a couple of races the other cars will be adapted and then they are on the same level again.

Q: The season is starting amid some controversial issues - the diffuser debate, the points system and the financial situation...
FA:
Unfortunately we have had to face a bad last couple of weeks for the sport. There was the change of rules, the attempt to change the point system and now the diffuser issue. For the fans it is impossible to understand what is going on and how Formula One can start a season with so many doubts and changes to last season. We have to settle all of these issues and then we can enjoy the races, have fun in the cars and the spectators can enjoy as well. Over the last 50 years Formula One has been the greatest sport, and the last three championships were decided in the last race with only one or two points difference, or even in the last corner of the last race. So in my opinion we should not be too desperate to find more show for the spectators, as we have enough. We should rather focus on having some continuity.

Q: What is your feeling on this year’s world championship? Do you feel that you have a car and a team capable of taking it?
FA:
I hope so. We are very optimistic, and our target remains the same as when we launched the car in Portimao. We want to fight for the championship, and at the end of the season we want to become world champion. We know it will be very difficult, and we know it's Formula One. The team showed last year how capable they are to improve the car in a short period of time, and we finished in a very strong position. If this year’s position at the beginning of the season is stronger than last year, and we are capable of scoring some points right away, we will be capable of developing the car to maximize its performance and its reliability. This would put us into the position to fight for the world championship.

Q: What is the biggest regulation change for you this season?
FA:
For sure it’s KERS for a driver. It keeps me very busy in the cockpit - sometimes too busy!

Q: Do you see it as an advantage, or disadvantage?
FA:
The KERS device is still something that is unpredictable, as it will be the first time that we will use it in a race situation, as for now we have only used it at testing. In terms of lap time, we do not expect much gain, as you lose a little bit of time in the corners, and gain some on the straights. So in the end you will be almost the same. In testing the difference between KERS and non-KERS cars was not huge in terms of performance and overtaking, so this race will be the first direct test to see the difference. This weekend we will find out if KERS helps in direct fights with a competitor. We chose to use it, and now we prefer to have it, rather than not having it on board.

Q: Did you have to lose weight to use KERS?
FA:
This is not something you are forced to do, but the device itself is quite heavy. The ballast we had last year, which we were able to move to set up the car, has now nearly disappeared. The team is searching for a couple of hundred grams here and there, all through the winter to save two kilograms of weight. For me there would be no reason to lose too much weight in favour of saving weight.

Q: What is your opinion on finding the right points system for Formula One racing?
FA:
I think that FOTA has brought a list of proposals, after considering the opinion of the fans, that are very clear and clever. We all agree that the world champion has to have something more than he has now. We have to find a common direction on that topic.

Q: McLaren doubt they will be very competitive at the first couple of races. Do you think that in the end this could be too much to fight for the championship?
FA:
First of all we have to see how competitive they are. If they are able to score some points in the first race, then I think they are strong enough to fight for the championship. If not, then we will see how the car develops after they introduce some new parts. We all think that McLaren is able to fight for the championship soon, as they have the resources to develop a car very quickly, whereas other teams would need much more time.

Q: Certain tracks suit certain drivers. You have an incredible record here in Melbourne. Why?
FA:
Because it is the first race of the championship - and that is very exciting. One of my strong points is consistency and not making too many mistakes. In Melbourne not many cars finish the race, so it is important to finish, and if you do, you’re very likely in the front.