Q & A with Fernando Alonso

As a highly-experienced double world champion and one of the most forthright characters in the field, Fernando Alonso can always be relied upon to have a considered opinion about the issues facing the sport

Q & A with Fernando Alonso

When he met reporters in Melbourne prior to the Australian Grand Prix, the Spaniard gave his assessment of both Renault's current potential and the diffuser and points controversies that have overshadowed the 2009 build-up. AUTOSPORT was there to hear his thoughts.

Q. How are you feeling going into this season?

Fernando Alonso: I feel good. It's a very interesting season in front of us, many changes, and we are all looking forward, starting on Sunday when we will see how competitive we are. After the winter testing it is difficult to know how quick you are, so I think the answer is we will know very shortly.

Q. Have you your eye on any competitors in particular?

FA: We don't under-estimate anyone. Brawn, Ferrari, BMW, Toyota, there are so many options. The championship is looking so open that it makes it very exciting for us, so we will see.

Q. Some people are saying championship will be decided by the diffuser issue, is that crucial?

FA: No, I don't think so. Maybe the first couple of races, for sure, there are a couple of teams going very quick, like Brawn. They have a different interpretation of the rules, so it's something that for the first races it's crucial to know what the decision is today.

But for the rest of the championship it will not make a huge difference because in race three or four, whatever the decision is today, the cars will be quite equal.

Q. It seems this season is starting under a cloud. It's not the best way to start the season.

FA: Yes, I absolutely agree. Unfortunately we had a bad last three or four weeks for our sport, with the change in rules and this attempt to change the world championship, to be decided by victories. We are happy they regretted their decision and they went back to the normal points.

But now there's this diffuser thing, and I think for the fans it is impossible to understand how Formula 1 can start a championship like this with so many doubts and so many changes. We will see when it's over, and then for race one we can talk about the sport, about having fun in the car, and hopefully the spectators will enjoy it.

F1 has been for more than 50 years one of the greatest sports ever, followed by millions of spectators around the world. We saw the last three world championships decided in the last race, even last year decided in the last corner, so we cannot be too crazy about finding more show for the people. The show is enough. We just need to find some continuity.

Q. You've set our sights on the world championship. Do you have the feeling you've the car and team to do it?

FA: I hope so, I want to think so at the moment. Our target remains the same when we launched the car in Portimao. We need to fight for the world championship. We want to be world champion at the end of the year.

We know it's difficult, we know it's Formula 1, but I have full confidence in the team. The team proved last year they are capable of improving the car, and we feel we're in a strong position. The starting position this year is better than last year, and we are good enough to score points now at the beginning of the season.

I think we are able to develop the car and put in more performance during the season, and if we are consistent then we have a chance of fighting for the world championship, I hope.

Q. Are you confident KERS is working? Will it be an advantage?

FA: They are questions we have as well. KERS is a device nobody knows at the moment. It's the first time we will use in a race situation when we are fighting with some other cars.

At the moment we have only used the KERS in testing when you are alone, so in terms of lap time we don't expect too much gain. You lose a little bit on the corners maybe, you gain a little on the straights. It's quite the same.

Now the answer we need to find is in a race situation when we are fighting with someone, if the KERS is a help, we will see on Sunday. We have decided to use it. We are happy, and we prefer to have it than not to have it.

Q. Did you have to lose weight in order to use KERS?

FA: It's something you must do because the device is quite heavy. The ballast we had last year, you were able to move it to set up the car. This year it has nearly disappeared.

So for the team it is finding 500 grammes, 400 grammes, 300 grammes all through the winter to save two kilos of weight. For the drivers there is no reason to help as much as the team as much as you can.

Q. Bernie has said he is planning to bring in the 'winner takes all' scenario in 2010. Do you think the drivers, or whoever, can make him change his mind?

FA: I think so. FOTA gave a list of proposals, and they were very clear. For me they were very clever proposals as well, listening to the fans.

We all more or less agree that the winner has to have something more than he has now, so maybe the 12 points, nine, seven was the better compromise, and in a better direction for the future than the wins (system).

All the drivers and the teams think in that direction, so the FIA and Bernie cannot go against the world. If the fans, the drivers, the teams, they go in one direction, I think at the end they will follow that direction.

Q. McLaren has said it may not be able to fight for wins for three or four races. Is that too much of a disadvantage for it to fight for the championship?

FA: We will see how competitive they are because in testing it is really difficult to understand how quick a team can be sometimes. So here we will see if they are competitive enough to score points and still fight for the championship with no problems.

If they are not quick and don't score points, then we will see when they introduce new parts how quick they are. For us, we all think McLaren are ready to fight for wins and podiums soon because even if they don't have a good starting point. Their resources, their potential is quite big, so they can build a completely new car in one month, something that for another team would take six months.

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