Bahrain Grand Prix FIA Thursday press conference transcript with Fernando Alonso (Renault) Flavio Briatore (Renault managing director) Q: Flavio, it has been a pretty good start to the season from where you are? Flavio Briatore: I think so,...
Bahrain Grand Prix FIA Thursday press conference transcript with
Fernando Alonso (Renault)
Flavio Briatore (Renault managing director)
Q: Flavio, it has been a pretty good start to the season from where you are?
Flavio Briatore: I think so, yes. We were competitive this winter and expected to be on the podium but we never expected to be so strong. We dominated the first race with Giancarlo and the second with Fernando. We expected somebody to be stronger, but it is a surprise to see McLaren not so strong and the Ferrari not so strong, this is a big surprise.
Q: Obviously it is very early in the championship so who do you see as your big rivals?
Flavio Briatore: I don't know. No really. Some teams have new cars, let's see what happens. We are talking about using the old car, but in one race, Fernando had a problem and was challenged by Jarno with Toyota and Fisichella was challenged by Red Bull. This is what we are seeing at this moment.
Q: So what's the atmosphere like in the team now?
Flavio Briatore: You know it's the atmosphere at Renault, it's always good. Last year the atmosphere was very good, even though we had a very difficult car and last year as well sometimes there was criticism of Fernando I remembered -- you know, I have a very long memory in this business -- and now this year everything is perfect. Last year Fernando did an incredible job as did Jarno at the beginning, because the car was very difficult to drive and we missed the opportunities in Canada, in Spa when we had problems. The team was already strong last year. Sure, Ferrari dominated everybody last year but I don't think it was only the car. I think the tyres were also a big plus. The car is the same car this year. What we have changed is that Michelin have done a very good job in the winter and have caught Ferrari and Bridgestone. But the atmosphere in the team is the same.
Sure, winning two races means there is more enthusiasm in the factory and the people are pushing much harder to keep this position, to be able to give the right car to Fernando and Giancarlo, to be competitive with everybody else. You know we are a very young team and the atmosphere in our team was always very good. We have never had aggravation, the drivers are friendly. They were friendly, Jarno and Fernando and now Fernando and Fisichella are friendly. It's a really happy team. It was before, as well. It's the result of a lot of work, done by both sides, in Paris and in London, but it's the result of everything. The drivers have improved, Fernando has another year's experience, he's still young and Fisichella comes back to us with a completely different spirit and a completely different attitude. For the moment, we are very happy.
Q: Do you think the time will come when you're going to have to manage the two drivers, when they may be racing one another? It's a very nice situation to be in...
Flavio Briatore: I like this kind of situation. But you know that when you have... I always say that the head is important. We have two very intelligent drivers and both are racing for the Renault team. I think this is very good, this kind of problem, plus it's magic if our two drivers are racing together. It would mean that already we have the Constructors' Championship in the pocket and afterwards really, it is quite normal to have two drivers racing. We are still racing as a sport, and team orders were forbidden, but really it's nice having two racing drivers in the team and not just one.
Q: Fernando, what do you think about that situation? It is obvious you have both won races so far.
Fernando Alonso: As Flavio said, it is nice to compete and to fight for the race with your team-mate because it means the car is more competitive than the others. But remember we only did two races, one I was penalised probably because of the rain on Saturday in Australia and the other one I won the race, so I am really confident to keep this level, both cases on the podium with different circumstances for me and good points so far in these two races.
Q: What has the reaction been like in Spain?
Fernando Alonso: Obviously, as usual, when you do well they over-react, I think, and when you do bad they speak too much as well, so it is a little bit too much.
Q: What is it going to be like when we get to Barcelona then?
Fernando Alonso: I am sure that it will be completely full, the stands, people will enjoy the race for sure and it will be like a party.
Q: This race, when did you arrive here, is there much acclimatising to do for this race?
Fernando Alonso: I arrived yesterday night, so not too much. It is only one hour difference and it has been all week quite hot in Europe, so the temperature is not as extreme as Malaysia and it should be okay this weekend for all the teams and drivers. It is very easy this race compared to the last one.
Q: Well, you will be surprised at what the monitors were saying earlier because they were saying 36 degrees ambient and 51 degrees track temperature, which isn't that far away from Malaysia. Were you expecting that?
Fernando Alonso: Yes. We were expecting this to be a little more hot on Sunday and Saturday it should be maybe a little bit hotter, and this can help our car and our tyres. The important thing is the humidity is very low compared to Malaysia and this caused problems for the teams and drivers in Sepang.
Q: So are you going to do your own work on your drinks bottle this weekend?
Fernando Alonso: We tested it last week and it was the first priority and everything works okay.
Q: That must be the first time a team has gone drinks bottle testing?
Fernando Alonso: Nah, I mean, it happened last year also. Normally the teams are in a strong position to develop the car and to forget the driver, and that is normal, because we prefer a quick car than a comfortable car. Some races have to be in between.
Q: Flavio, how conservative has the team been in the first two races?
Flavio Briatore: I don't know. The team really tried. We arrived in Formula One with Renault at 100 percent and every year we say we do a step. I believe what we have this year is the consequence of the charge that was done in the last four years. Nothing happens by chance in Formula One, it is very complicated, there is a lot of people working together to get a quick car.
The team knows the performance we had in these two races and this is very good because we demand a lot from the people in the factory, and when you are very, very bad or very, very good, I am sure it is better the second, when you are very, very good. I mean, I believe it is great to see people smiling when you arrive in the office on a Monday. It is a surprise, but it is good to be a surprise. This is quite an ideal team, two drivers together and everyone saw the two drivers are together because really the people spend a lot of time together and we do not want to play in the press conference saying that we are happy when we are not happy. And this is great.
Q: Fernando, first how does it feel to be the leader of the World Championship, does it put any extra pressure on you? Secondly, we do get very excited in Spain with what you have been accomplishing over these years but did you think some people this time may have gone too far by almost kidnapping you in your own house? You couldn't even go out, you had to leave because of all that was going on around your house.
Fernando Alonso: For the first question, leading the championship is not really a problem, it is not giving me any more pressure because we only did two races and maybe I feel pressure if we were in the last two races and I was leading the championship. Now is not a real picture of all the drivers and all the championships so we have to forget and think race by race. Second question, really in Spain it went too far, all the people, especially journalists, and this is a problem. But it is not what I want, to be in front of my house waiting for a picture, and if they think they have to do that it is their problem.
Q: But do you think that they put your security in danger?
Fernando Alonso: For sure, also as I was not in the place they were. They were in front of my parents' house and I was not there, I was with a friend and I watched on television what they were doing, their ridiculous position in front of the house.
Q: I was surprised when they told you which gear you should be in at Sepang.
Fernando Alonso: I was surprised too. Sometimes they see on the computer, on the data, that some temperatures on oil pressure is going too low or too high in some corners and when I heard this opinion, these words, I knew that it was safer to go fifth gear in that corner and, for sure, it was not a problem for me to do it. Maybe if they asked in a different corner then maybe I ask why, but because it was happening in turn six in Sepang, it was a corner that was between fourth and fifth, it was not clear, and I was going in fourth and they said fifth and it was no problem at all.
Q: Just that one corner it was a problem?
Fernando Alonso: It was not a problem, but because we had a very safe gap they thought it was safe to go like this. But it was not a big risk.
Q: Fernando, Ferrari are bringing their new car here, what do you think about it?
Fernando Alonso: Ferrari is a very strong team, one of the favourites for all the Grands Prix, and now with their new car for sure they will have more potential and they will be more competitive than the last race. But at the moment Renault won the first two Grands Prix and is the team to beat and they have to look in the Renault garage, not Renault have to look at all the other teams. I also think, too, that last year's Ferrari car was not bad at all. So their new car, for sure, is better, but I think the key to beat Ferrari to the top is not only the car.
Q: What do you think of Bahrain and the people?
Fernando Alonso: I really don't spend much time here in Bahrain. Last year we visited a market on the street and they have different cultures, different ways to live, and for us it is sometimes strange, not worse, not better, but a different culture. The circuit itself, as we see, has fantastic facilities and the track is very wide, smooth, and it is good for Formula One to come to this country.
Q: Flavio, is it right that you don't care what Ferrari is doing?
Flavio Briatore: I am only looking for my team, really, because I am not in charge of Ferrari and I look at our team, our garage, our drivers. And I said before, in Malaysia we had the Toyota behind us and in Australia we had the Red Bull and we didn't look at them. We do our race, and do whatever is possible. If someone is in front of us, someone is better, quicker or whatever, but our concentration is in our team, I don't care about the other teams.
Q: Fernando, do you think you have realistic chance to win here in Bahrain; and secondly, do you have any comments for the other Spanish driver who is going to be here this weekend, Pedro de la Rosa with McLaren?
Fernando Alonso: Here in Bahrain we know it will be difficult. Last year it was not a perfect track for us for the characteristics of the corners and the circuit, but this year we have a completely different package. We have a very strong engine, a very nice car aerodynamically and everything can change. Maybe we have a competitive car here and I am quite convinced of that and we can fight for the podium, minimum. To win a race there are a lot of things you need to have -- qualifying, a good tyre choice, strategy and so on, and I think to arrive to approach the weekend thinking of the podium is not stupid at all for the way we are with the car now.
For the second question, Pedro is replacing Montoya for this race and I am happy, obviously. The more Spanish drivers we have in Formula One the better for Spain, for the people, there is now a lot of interest in Formula One in Spain and for sure a lot of people will enjoy this race more than others, with two Spanish drivers on the track. And also Montoya is still in the championship and he will not take too many points this race.
Q: Mr Briatore, you said a few weeks ago that Formula One needed to look into making the show better and making it more interesting for the fans. In which way do you think that the fact that Ferrari has not been winning many races, that Renault have been doing well and that Red Bull and Toyota were right behind you, in which way do you think that might help the popularity of Formula One?
Flavio Briatore: For sure, for us it is more interesting than last year! This, for us, is changing a lot already. Formula One is a big television event, it is the race it is the sport. What I was talking about two weeks ago was putting Formula One back on the sports pages and not on the pages for finance, the newspapers, talking about a championship in 2008, who manages it, money and whatever. I believe Formula One is a sport, we have a car, we have a driver, the people want to see a race, they don't want to know how much Renault spend, how much Ferrari spend, or Toyota spends. The people want to see a race.
This is what we are talking about. When you put rules in the way, the race is better. Maybe the aerodynamics of the car changes but for everybody. People want to see a race, they want to see overtaking. I believe the race in Australia, when Fernando started 14th or 13th, and he was overtaking a lot. When you see that it is great for the sport, it is great for our business. This is my point. We are concentrating on our event, a big television event, to increase the spectacle of the race is important.
Q: And do you think the fact that Ferrari doesn't look like they are going to win all the races adds to that, because that has been a complaint that has been going on for a long time?
Flavio Briatore: I don't say that Renault winning is better for Formula One, I just said that the fact that Ferrari is not winning is good news. Because last year your guys were always tell me how boring it used to be with Ferrari first and second, oh my God, Schumacher again, oh my God, this year it's not so many My God. And I think this is great. This is what the media says, it's not me. I read this in the newspaper, you guys. It see last year everyone was saying not Ferrari again. This year it is not like that, this year it is more interesting because people want to see what happens.
Q: Flavio, how do you feel yourself?
Flavio Briatore: I feel great, like everyone in the team. It was difficult when I came back in Formula One in 2001 to expect Renault to be in the top teams in 2005. I know it is not finished yet, because we have done nothing, like Fernando said, we have won two races. But at least we are sure that Renault is in the top teams. We were third in 2004, I hope this year we will finish better than last year. You need to be happy when you have done the job and you have the nice environment around you, I mean, I feel happy with that.
Continued in Part 2