Renault's Fernando Alonso got his first taste of life with a V8 engine on Friday -- and he thinks Formula 1 still gives the drivers plenty of challenges.
Q: So Fernando, how are you feeling after all the prizegivings since the end of the season?
Fernando Alonso: Very good. Really, there was only one prize that mattered among them and that was last Friday in Monaco, to get the real championship trophy. While I have been at home in England, I have been believing and understanding more every day that I am champion. But it was a nice feeling to be back in the car.
Q: Last year, you didn't run until after Christmas, but this year you were back in the car a bit earlier. How was it?
FA: Well, I think I would have preferred to continue on holiday but the team said I had to come and test! We wanted to do one day to understand the impact of the engine changes, so that I am ready for the new car in January. And to tell the truth, in the morning I was quite excited coming back to the car and doing the first laps. They were good emotions.
Q: And how did the car feel?
FA: It is down on power, and that is the first thing you feel. But it is the same for everybody, and so we have to get used to it and work with this. We are not as fast on the straights, and you feel the lack of power when you accelerate. The downforce is similar though, so in the corners it is very similar to 2005. With our V8 simulation, the times look good, and I know that the engineers are working hard, so I am optimistic for the new car.
Q: What is your opinion of the impact of the V8 engines on Formula 1?
FA: I have read some comments of drivers saying that it was too easy to drive, or that we have too much grip for the power levels. But I don't agree. When you are driving on the limit, it is always the same, always difficult. It doesn't matter whether you are in an F3 car or an F1 car, with a V10 engine or a V8. The important thing is to be driving on the limit, and when you are there, it is never simple.
Q: Renault has not yet run its new engine on track. Are you worried about that?
FA: Like anything, we will have to wait and see, but I am confident. We did the same thing with the R25: we waited until after Christmas to run, and immediately it was good. They are working hard on the dyno to make the engine ready, so I am confident we can do the same this year. I think the chassis will be good to drive, and with a reliable engine as well, I believe we can be competitive again.
Q: Finally, how are you feeling as you go into 2006 -- as world champion. Is that more pressure for you?
FA: No, it is less pressure. Even if I finish 20th now for the next five years, I have been world champion, so I am not stressed at all. Before, I always put pressure on myself because I was somebody young, with talent, who maybe could become champion, and I wanted to succeed. Now, I have nothing left to prove on that level. Of course, though, I want to do it again. I love to compete against other people, and that is what I am waiting to do next year.