The launch today of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team marks the start of a new era for the team, including the arriving of two new drivers with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton forming an exciting pairing going into 2007.
In the following Q&A both Fernando outlines his thoughts on his new team, today's event in Spain and his expectations for the season ahead.
Q: Fernando, what was your inspiration behind joining Vodafone McLaren Mercedes?
Fernando Alonso: First of all, joining a new team always offers you something more and gives you this extra motivation. Everything is completely new, you are learning new things and understanding different approaches, it provides an extra challenge and inspiration. Also with my experiences over the past five or six years, I will also try to give something to the team, and I think this combination between the experience of the two can make a very strong package and great relationship in the next couple of years.
Q: What do you feel Vodafone McLaren Mercedes offers you that other Formula 1 teams can't?
FA: In terms of professionalism and technology, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team gives me support for the future. I believe it is the right team for me to switch to, to have a competitive car in the future, I don't see a better option than Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. I am really looking forward to the season and am really happy and motivated to be a part of this new team.
Q: What does it mean to be introducing your new team to your fans in your home country?
FA: It is really important for me. I have a lot of fantastic support from the Spanish people and for me to be in this new project starting from Valencia in my home country will be something special for sure. I have very special feelings and emotions today and I am hoping it will be the start of a fantastic season.
Q: Will the demonstration run in Valencia be the first time you have driven a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes car?
FA: The demonstration run around the Cuidad de las Artes y de la Ciencias will be the second time I have driven with the team, following my one day test in December at Jerez . However this will be the first time I have driven for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in the team's livery with all the sponsors, so it will be an exciting time. Being in my home country, the first time in public with my new team and also on the streets taking the cars so close to the fans will be a great day.
Q: What are your thoughts of the colour scheme of the MP4-22?
FA: The MP4-22 looks fantastic, obviously we need to check how the car is from inside, as in how it performs, however from the outside it is without a doubt the best looking car I have ever driven.
Q: What makes you so passionate about Formula 1?
FA: I live my life in Formula 1 as though it is a dream come true, because it is, and I make sure I enjoy every day I am in the sport. I come from a very normal family, I never had any big help in my life and I just followed my feelings, there is so much about Formula 1 that makes me passionate about the sport and I know I have to get the most out of it that I can.
Q: How do you feel ahead of your first test with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-22 at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia ?
FA: It is very stressful! The anticipation is massive, it has been a long time waiting for this moment! There are a lot of new things to take into account this year, not just my new team but changes to the regulations and the switch to Bridgestone Potenza tyres. So we have a lot to do, there are many things I have to learn from Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and them about me also. I cannot wait to get my hands on the car and start this process.
Q: What are your aims for 2007 with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team?
FA: To win the Championships is the only answer to this question. After winning the last two Championships you cannot arrive at the first race in 2007 hoping to be on the podium or in the points, you need to be the best. It is for this reason that I switched to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes as we have the same targets for 2007. We both want to be World Champions, I hope to have a car to become Champion and I hope to help the team to take the Constructors' title as well.
Q: Are you looking forward to having Lewis as a teammate?
FA: Yes very much. Lewis is very young, very talented and very passionate about Formula 1. When you have this opportunity at 22 years old to drive for a top team like Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, you put so much energy and passion into the drive that it can only be a help to the team. Because of all the energy there is in everything Lewis will do I think we can be a really strong team. I can bring some experience from the last couple of years of fighting at the top and Lewis can bring some new, fresh ideas and we will push each other to the maximum, because we both want to do our best.
Q: What role did fellow Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa play in you joining Vodafone McLaren Mercedes?
FA: For many years Pedro has tried to convince me to join the team because he has always been very impressed about the facilities, the team, the organisation and the philosophy. Pedro is vital within the team, we need him and his experience of the team, alongside Gary , to develop the car, especially with two new drivers, and to work with us to strive to be the best. He will play a really important role this year and I am looking forward to working closely with him.
Q: How are you settling in to your new Vodafone McLaren Mercedes family?
FA: Really well, I think it will be a great relationship. I am starting now to work with the team, I know more or less how they operate and most importantly I feel the passion of all the people working in the McLaren Technology Centre. You can tell straight away how motivated they are and focused on our challenge for the Championships.
Q: When did you first visit the McLaren Technology Centre and what work did you undertake?
FA: I went for the first time in late December to meet the team and to have an initial seat fitting. I spent some time walking round the departments and being introduced to all the people I will be working with, and as I just mentioned it is great to know we all have the same aim. I was also really impressed about the facility. As I think everyone knows, it is really large and as you go round, you can see the technology and the drive everywhere.
Q: Do you think Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will be more competitive this season?
FA: Yes I think so, the team is doing a good job as we prepare for 2007. There is an understanding within the team where things were not quite right last year and I feel completely confident. Once we get the MP4-22 on track, the progress we can make from now until the first race will be really big, and I have no doubt that we will fight for the championship thanks to the work of everyone within the team.
Q: What message would you like to give to your fans as pre-season testing gets underway?
FA: That is easy, to enjoy! I think we are at the start of a very interesting championship, a lot of drivers have changed teams, there have been rule changes, we are all on the same Bridgestone Potenza tyres. So we arrive at a pre-season where nobody knows which team or which drivers are strong and who is the favourite. From this we can take the opportunity to really enjoy this season as no-one can make any predictions so it is a complete surprise for everyone.