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Q & A with Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso had an eventful first day's practice for the European Grand Prix at Valencia. The double world champion set the fastest time of the day, but he also collided with Nick Heidfeld and had a late-session spin

Speaking to the press afterwards, Alonso explained his visit to the stewards, and why he didn't think the pace he showed on Friday would be enough for victory alone. AUTOSPORT was there to hear what he had to say.

Q. What did the stewards say to you after the session?

Fernando Alonso: I had to go and see the stewards this morning after P1 and now this afternoon after P2. Hopefully tomorrow I can be more relaxed!

After the first session it was just because we missed the autograph session yesterday, because Romain and I had a sponsorship commitment. Then in P2, with the [Nick] Heidfeld incident, where unfortunately these things happen in motor racing. In my opinion, it was just a normal incident. I thought he was coming to the pits because he was going very wide in the last corner, and he had to take the pitlane entry. Then he suddenly turned in and crossed the circuit like he was on an out-lap, to start the next lap a little bit quicker. That surprised me completely.

We touched each other as he didn't see me. But, there is nothing more than that. They asked for an explanation from him and for an explanation from me, and that is all.

Q. Didn't you have your tyres locked up though?

FA: Yeah, that is the confusion maybe with the images. I locked up the right front, and you see the smoke, but we have the data and took it there. We were 50 km/h slower than any other lap, so even with a locked tyre the speed is much less, and I was slower than any other lap. The smoke just made some confusion.

Q. Did either of you apologise to each other?

FA: Yeah. When we met each other in the stewards' room, when he finished, I was coming in. We shook hands and we talked. This was a racing incident, this is motor sport.

Q. How much did it upset your practice programme?

FA: Nothing!

Q. It looked like quite a good practice programme though as all the way through the session you were quick?

FA: Yes. It is not only the last lap that we were quick. Sometimes you drop fuel at the end and you put in a nice lap. But, this afternoon it was a little bit better than that. We were always in the top three, top two, with any condition, with any tyre and with any fuel load. So this was the best thing for us this afternoon. The car seems competitive in all the parts and in all the conditions we put it, and this is good news at the moment for us. But it is only Friday and we need to keep working.

Q. So your concerns from Thursday that the stop-go characteristics of Valencia would not suit the Renault have not come true?

FA: Well, that is still the biggest problem of today. We need to keep working in the braking, stability and traction, which are maybe the two problems that we are facing at the moment in this grand prix. But, it seems like it is the same for everybody - it is just track characteristics with the long braking that is the same for everybody. So at the moment, we seem okay on that, so we need to keep improving but we are more happy than we were yesterday maybe.

Q. Last year you came through and took two fantastic wins at the end of the season. Do you think it is possible to repeat that this year, or are you a bit too far off?

FA: It is a difficult question. I think we need some help from the others. It is the same as last year in Singapore - where there was some help from the safety car - where there was a lucky moment and I took the benefit. And then in Fuji, at the start, the first four cars were off the track at Turn 1, so without those things I could not win any races also last year.

This year is more or less the same. We still need a couple of tenths to be able to win a grand prix, maybe three or four tenths to be competitive enough to win, but we are just behind that first group. So if they do any mistakes then maybe we can take that opportunity, but it will not depend only on us.

Q. To what extent do the KERS cars upset your strategy? Is there a strategy that makes it possible for you to protect yourself against them?

FA: If you start on pole, that is the best thing. You are starting on the clean side and if you don't have a KERS car second or third then you are fine. If they are fourth you are fine, like we had in Hungary. I was first and Hamilton was fourth, so you are safe enough in the first corner. That is the only thing that you can do to protect yourself against the KERS car at the start - try to be on pole position and then, fingers crossed, they are not second or third.

Q. So does that mean a more aggressive qualifying strategy?

FA: I think we are always doing our maximum, and it is not only us - it is everybody. It is important qualifying, but we saw in Hungary that that is a very difficult circuit to overtake, it is a very important qualifying session, but Kimi Raikkonen [with KERS] started ninth and finished second, with the possibility of winning. So it is a compromise between high fuel, doing the perfect strategy with an ideal lap, and then a good qualifying. It is difficult, but we try to do always our maximum.

Q. What do you make of Romain's performance today?

FA: I think it is good. I don't know exactly the times at the end because I was not free to come here. He did no mistakes and completed many laps today, which was the main priority - getting used to the F1 car, and there is a lot of information to look at tonight for him and me. The team will help both of us to be better tomorrow, so there will be more to come from Romain tomorrow, and on Sunday as well. It is only his first grand prix, but his learning process is quick and he made no mistakes - so that is the perfect start.

Q. Kimi Raikkonen has said he is doing nothing to help Luca Badoer. Do you feel any responsibility to help Grosjean?

FA: I cannot come to him and help in anything in particular, but he knows that I am here for anything that he wants. I told him this morning - anything you need from me or whatever, just come. I am ready to help you in these first days. Things with the car, with ratios, which gears on which corner, or how to use the kerbs, all these types of things. Anything you want just ask me, and at the moment he did not ask me so he is quick enough.

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