Q & A with Fernando Alonso
|By Jonathan Noble||Thursday, March 25th 2010, 08:57 GMT|
Fernando Alonso may have won the opening race of the season in Bahrain, but admits that he needed Sebastian Vettel's exhaust failure to beat the faster Red Bull.
Ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, AUTOSPORT heard the Spaniard's thoughts on the balance of power, and on why Formula 1 needs to wait before reacting to the widely-criticised boring first race of the year.
Q. When you sat on the grid, were you aware that Red Bull were starting with a lighter car than you?
Fernando Alonso: No, not really. When we are on the grid we don't know what the others are doing, we just prepare ourselves for the race. I don't know if they start lighter than us or not.
Q. It's thought that they have a more fuel efficient engine so they're about 6kg lighter than you. Is that the reason you would wait until later in the race to attack?
FA: No. I think this rumour is 6kg or whatever about the fuel efficiency that Red Bull has is just a rumour. I don't think that anybody is able to put money on who was the lightest car at the start in Bahrain, maybe there are some surprises. So we don't concentrate on that, we just concentrate on our fuel consumption, we are happy with what we achieved in the winter.
I was ready to attack [Sebastian] Vettel all the way through the race, but at the beginning I was not able to attack because he was definitely quicker than me with the soft tyres. Then with the hard tyres it seemed that I was a little bit more comfortable, but maybe he was controlling that part of the race or something - it's always difficult to say. We were lucky enough to win the race after his problem, hopefully next time we can start in front of him and not need to wait for any problem.
Q. After Bahrain you said you think Red Bull is slightly ahead of Ferrari. Where do you think they have advantages and where do you think the Ferrari is better?
FA: I don't know, I think we need a couple of races to understand the picture better. I think maybe performance-wise maybe Red Bull is a bit ahead of everybody now, which is not a surprise because they finished 2009 very strongly, so they kept the momentum. But one thing is to be the fastest car and another thing is to win the race. We will try to push them again, and it will depend also circuit to circuit as we saw last year. Sometimes Brawn was very strong and sometimes they had difficulties. Hopefully here in Australia we can be strong and we can fight for the win.
Q. In Bahrain the tyres lasted longer than people expected. What do you expect here, a street circuit that's very green early in the weekend?
FA: We need to wait and see. Last year it was very hard on the tyres, but this year the tyres are three or four steps harder, so it should be a little bit better. The track evolution is very important there, so if we have no rain and a normal weekend, tomorrow's information will be updated for Sunday when the track will be much better. Hopefully we will have less problem than Bahrain, even though Bahrain was more or less okay.
Q. You spoke about preparing to attack Vettel in Bahrain. Do you think that might have answered some critics that F1 has become boring?
FA: No, we need to be calm and wait some races to really see if the new rules have some impact in the show. I don't think they have any change, last year in the first seven races Jenson [Button] won six. It was boring? Maybe yes, maybe no. This is Formula 1. Michael [Schumacher] won five consecutive championships. It was boring? Maybe yes, maybe no. this is Formula 1. So, if we want to see wet races, safety cars, all these things every race it will not be Formula 1 any more.
This is about the knowledge, about how precise everything - drivers, engineering, everything – if people want extra show, maybe they need to reconsider if they want to watch Formula 1?
Q. After Michael [Schumacher]'s first race back, do you think he is able to be the same Michael he was before?
FA: Yes. Unfortunately we had 14 days between race one and race two, so there are many things to talk about and write in that time. We did only one race, we need to wait and see the performances of the cars, who is quick, who is not. We need to understand better the rules, if the show is good enough or not, we need to have more experience with the tyres and the strategies this year.
Also the question about Michael, who knows? I think he will be strong, why not? I think the talent and capacity for driving a Formula 1 car, he will always have that inside, so I expect a very strong Michael in this championship. It's only one race. After three or four races, maybe we can answer this question properly, but at the moment everything remains as before Bahrain, everything is open.
Q. What do you think about the newcomers this year, and particularly Vitaly Petrov at Renault?
FA: I think everybody is important in Formula 1. The big names are important for the media attention and the fans, but the new drivers are very important. Some of the new names of today will be great champions in a few years.
I think Vitaly is one of those names that is very welcome, and we are all very happy to have a Russian driver in Formula 1. With Renault, I know the team, he will have a great time and hopefully he can grow up together with [Robert] Kubica this year?
Q. Some people are suggesting that forcing a second pitstop would make all the difference. How do you feel about that?
FA: It's difficult to answer, difficult to know. I don't think so. If you have to do two stops, more or less the finish will remain the same. Because qualifying is with no fuel, pole position normally is the fastest car. Who will overtake that guy in the race? Nobody, in theory. The fastest cars this year are starting in the better positions so after that it's difficult to be creative or to have a strategy that will change completely the order of the grid.
But this is the way it is. I saw the race replay in Bahrain and for me it was not a bad race. There was a fight between [Sebastian] Vettel and the two Ferraris, behind was a fight between [Nico] Rosberg and [Lewis] Hamilton in the first part, then Michael [Schumacher], Jenson [Button] and [Mark] Webber in the second part. It's not that we were spread, each one alone, there were some fights just unfortunately no overtaking. But this is not new because of the 2010 rules, this has been a normal thing in the last 15 years.
Q. If there is no overtaking and the races are being decided at the first corner or in qualifying, does it mean the emphasis of development has to go more towards one-lap performance?
FA: It always goes on first lap performance, in previous years. But the pace in the race will be important. Bahrain was only one race. Here we have seen many very special races, the safety car is a high chance. There will be circuits soon with high overtaking possibilities, Malaysia, China, so we are now in a part of the championship with very interesting races. I think after these races it will be better to know if we saw an entertaining show or not.