Q&A with Renaults Fernando Alonso 24 Apr 2009
The Renault R29 may not be truly competitive yet, but at least its performance at the last round in China was enough to put a small smile back on the face of former champion Fernando Alonso. And given that this weekends Bahrain Grand Prix is only the fourth round of the season, there is still plenty of opportunity for strong results - perhaps even podiums
Q: Your team boss Flavio Briatore was very optimistic about the car's performance in China. What are your thoughts on that?
Fernando Alonso: Not totally. Obviously we made a step forward and we are much more happy with the car now, but we know that it is not enough to fight with the quickest cars on the grid, and it is not possible to win races and maybe to be on the podium. We know that, but it's true that before we maybe lacked one second and now we can be much closer. In China we were P6 in Q3, which is much better than we have been Australia and Malaysia, and in the race we also had a good performance. I started last but overtook some cars and when we were running alone we were fourth fastest, but we know that we need another one or more races to be fighting on top.
Q: Is there more to come in Barcelona?
FA: I worry that there isn't. We tried to push our new package for China because we needed it as soon as possible, but when you come with a new package a little bit forward you are left with nothing for the next couple of races. In Barcelona most of the teams, especially McLaren and Force India, will update their cars and we will also try to put on some parts, but we need some more races to really develop the car to be able to fight for the top.
Q: How did the car feel in China?
FA: Not a big change. Similar as in the first two races, but we were more competitive. We were quicker and closer to the other teams. It was not a big change that made our lives much easier. It is still very difficult to get into Q3 and still very difficult to fight with the top teams.
Q: You ran without KERS in China. What about here in Bahrain?
FA: We are still analyzing if it is worth at all putting KERS into our car. We will use some of the Fridays in some of the races to test it. Without testing during the season Fridays became much more important in terms of testing new parts of the car. I think it will be a decision we will make from race to race and at the last moment, maybe on Friday night.
Q: How do you regard Sebastian Vettel after his second win and how surprised are you by Red Bull Racings performance?
FA: Sebastian is very good, very young and has already two wins. I think he has great potential to become world champion one day. It always depends on your car. Remember last year, the BMW was a good car and everybody was impressed about Robert Kubica, also very young and already fighting for the title. But this year we seem to forget Kubica, just because his car is not as good as it was last year. Now we talk about the Brawn GP drivers and the Red Bull drivers. It really depends on your car. If Red Bull Racing is good enough I am sure Sebastian is capable of winning a championship because he proved already twice that he is able to win races in very difficult conditions. Am I surprised with Red Bull Racings performance? Yes and no. In every new season you have to wait and see the first two or three races to see how the cars perform, and we saw straight away in Australia that the Red Bull cars were good and Sebastian Vettel was fighting for second place already. This was a good sign that the car was fast straight away. So it is more or less not a surprise that they won one race this year.
Q: How about Ferrari, are you surprised by their performance?
FA: I think we expect Ferrari to perform well in every championship. When you start the season in Australia and you ask for the favourite team people always say Ferrari because they have been the top team for the last ten years. But obviously Formula One is different this year. I think Ferrari is a strong team in general, like McLaren, and also like Renault, and we will come back. We will improve our car as well and be at the level of the top teams, and Ferrari will do the same.
Q: Do you think Nelson Piquet will be able to find his form this season?
FA: I think Nelson has also been unlucky with some of the qualifyings, and in China he did not have the update that I had, so he was not in the same condition. Here I'm sure he will improve his performance and I hope we can both score points on Sunday.
Q: D you think Jenson Button has what it takes to be champion?
FA: Yes, I think so. He has the speed and he has the experience as well, after eight or nine years in Formula One. He knows how to complete a championship, in 2004 he finished third I think, when British American Racing was in good form. For Jenson it's not the first time he is fighting for something important, and now with more experience and a good car I think he could be capable of winning the championship. Again, it will depend on how Brawn GP improve their car during the season. At the moment they have a good car. They are the top team here again, so they are able to score some points and could open a gap to the other teams. They really need to keep developing the car if they want to be able to win the championship.