Q: Fernando, it is a tough weekend for the whole paddock with the loss of Jules Bianchi. You knew him quite well - better maybe than most other drivers…
Fernando Alonso: I had the privilege to know him outside the track, sharing three years together at Ferrari with a lot of training days together, football matches and cycling tours. So this week it’s really hard to accept that he is no longer with us. He was handpicked to drive for Ferrari, even earlier than probably first anticipated, so he leaves a void - in our hearts and in the paddock.
Q: This is a tricky track from many reasons. What is new at McLaren this weekend that could help you pull in a better result?
FA: Nothing really special. We will run a new engine - without penalty after the decision of the FIA - so that allows us to put extra mileage on the car and we will try to exploit the maximum. Yes, this track is very different to the tracks we’ve been to lately - Canada, Austria and Silverstone - so in the end it is all about seeing how competitive we can be on a track like this.
Q: You had to push your car back to the pits this afternoon. Was it a case of ‘if you love it, shove it’?
FA: Ha, actually it was not looking bad this afternoon. And I really thought that me pushing the car back to the garage could make a difference, only to learn in the garage that the car has to arrive by itself in the pits to take further part in qualifying. Then I asked myself: why the hell was I pushing so hard in that heat? But, of course, you always try to remain in the game - especially as the weekend so far has looked pretty promising for us. We’ve been in the top 10 in most sessions - and then in qualifying suddenly the issues popped up: Jenson [Button] had a problem with the KERS system on his fastest lap and my car suddenly switched off! Not exactly the right timing for these kind of problems. So we can only try to learn as much as we can tomorrow in the race.
Q: How do you explain that dramatic rise in performance, making it into the top ten for most of the weekend?
FA: Well, I think it is a combination of the circuit’s characteristics and the improvement of the car. That’s why it is so pitiful that this afternoon we couldn’t pull a good grid position from the good efforts we’ve shown so far here. In fact we’ve seen that every weekend it’s been getting better and better lately - so what happened in qualifying today was really not part of the plan.
Q: Is what you are saying that the car suddenly switched off?
FA: Yes. It was something electrical - a connector or something - as the power was off immediately.
Q: So when you got back to the pits you thought you’d be allowed to go back out if the team were able to fix the problem?
FA: Yes, otherwise I wouldn’t have pushed like a madman. I find that a rather strange rule as we sometimes see cars arriving even on the crane in the pits and then take part again in qualifying - but that’s the way it is! Of course it was absolutely the wrong time for any glitches. It could have meant our first time making it into Q3. Alas, it was not meant to happen here.
Q: When will you know why this switch off happened? It would be unfortunate if it were to happen again in the race…
FA: We will go over the data and see what was the cause of this ‘power shortage’, to eliminate factors that could lead to such an issue happening again in the race.
Q: So what do you want for the race?
FA: Finish it! Of course ideally in the points. But mileage is still key for us - not whether it is one point or no points.