Renault official test driver Fernando Alonso answers questions on his role in the team, his home country and fellow Spanish drivers. Behind the scenes of the fortnightly show, the test driver works long days at a wet and windy Silverstone ...
Renault official test driver Fernando Alonso answers questions on his role in the team, his home country and fellow Spanish drivers.
Behind the scenes of the fortnightly show, the test driver works long days at a wet and windy Silverstone throughout the winter, searching for the extra tenths of a second that transform a challenger into a race winner. Here is what he thinks about his role, what he contributes, and how he fits into the team during the race weekend...
Q: As test driver, how important is your role to the team?
"Absolutely crucial, obviously! I think that compared to even a few years ago, the job is becoming more and more important. Instead of being small teams, we are now part of big companies, with big budgets, big pressures, and that means more testing. As the performance on the track becomes more and more important, so does my job in developing the car and improving its performance."
Q: What have you learned from the team so far this year?
"So far, it's just been little stuff - different ways of working, different ways of doing things. The main difference is the speed of development - we have been testing lots of parts, and there's always something new on the car to evaluate. There are lots of people around me, and they all work very well, very professionally. I feel really comfortable in the team, and try and work in the same professional way, giving good feedback on the developments even as I'm still learning about the car."
Q: The team has had an excellent start to the year. Do you feel part of that success?
"Yes, I feel part of it - if the drivers finish well, I am happy for them and the team. Everybody works for that success - the drivers, the mechanics and the engineers, and part of my job is to make that happen. But even so, it's not me in the car achieving that - all my life, I have driven and always raced, and to see a colleague finishing fourth or fifth makes me happy, but the feeling is still a strange one."
Q: What do you feel when you are in the garage during a race weekend?
"Nothing special - I'm just like one of the mechanics, or the Michelin guy. It doesn't make me feel anything in particular."
Q:When you are at the races, you don't have an active role during the weekend. What do you think is the easiest job in an F1 team?
"Press officer! It's very simple - after every race, all you need to say is, "with these two drivers, this is the best result we could hope for!" Or maybe working in the kitchen: not because the job itself is easy, but because they are the only people who can plan their weekend beforehand, and stick to it. For everyone else, it can all change in a matter of minutes - it's too unpredictable!"
Life is about more than just racing! In the run-up to his home Grand Prix, Fernando gives us a few brief thoughts on his country, people and city as well as revealing exactly what stays on in his room all night!
Q:Where are you from in Spain, and what do you think of it?
"A small city called Oviedo, in the north-west. I love the town, its people and how normal it is - I can go home and relax with my friends, and just do the things anybody else my age wants to. It's nice to be able to get away from everything and go home."
Q: What is your favourite thing about Spain as a country?
"The people. Everybody is always happy, and that's really hard to find in any of the other countries I've visited. Why are they so happy? I don't know - maybe it's the sun!"
Q: What do you think of Spanish drivers?
"On the road? They're terrible! I'm just joking, but I think that in F1, De La Rosa and Gene have suffered bad luck. Marc spent two years with Minardi and didn't manage to get a drive, so has now been testing for two years with Williams, and I'm not sure whether he will get another opportunity to race with any of the other small teams. De La Rosa has a great opportunity at Jaguar, but the team isn't very strong at the moment, and he's having a difficult time. The young drivers in Formula Nissan and F3 seem quite good, so we'll have to see for the future."
Q: As a child, what did you dream of being later in life?
"A racing driver of course! I took part in my first kart race at the age of three, but the first time I got into a kart, I was only two years old! It's the only one job I've ever dreamed of doing..."
Q: What was the last concert you went to?
"I don't know - I hardly ever go. In terms of cinema, the last film I saw was "The Others" with Nicole Kidman. The film was made by a Spanish director and I really enjoyed it."
Q: Do you have any phobias?
"Spiders. And the dark. I always have something around to distract me. When I'm travelling in hotels, I even leave the television on!"
Fernando's five questions on F1 - his opinions on Spanish drivers in F1, the year so far for the team and his predictions for victory in this weekend's race!
Q: Why do you think Spanish drivers have traditionally struggled in F1?
"I'm not sure why - it's a difficult question. Obviously, Spain has never had a strong presence in F1 - not like bike racing, for example. But also, F1 is the most difficult championship in the world to win - you need the perfect combination of talent, luck and the right car, all at the perfect time. It's very hard to make all of those things happen at the same time."
Q: What do you think of Barcelona as a circuit?
"For me, Barcelona isn't a great circuit. We do so much testing at the track, and I drove there a lot in the junior categories, that it's all just very familiar to me. It's quite bumpy, and the corners are all a little dull - very long and quite slow. Everything is just a bit too simple for the driver."
Q: How much testing have you done so far for Renault?
"Not much! The team had a good winter, and I ran a lot in the old car, but the priority at the start of the season is obviously the two race drivers, even more so because we have only had one chassis for testing up to now. After Barcelona, we will have two new cars for the first time, and that will mean I can start my real programme in Valencia."
Q: What do you think of the new car? How does it compare to the Minardi and last year's Benetton?
"The new car seems a lot easier to drive than the old Benetton. Compared to the Minardi, which was a very good car, the main difference is the engine - there's just so much more power. The R202 is definitely the best car I have ever driven."
Q: Who do you think is going to win the Spanish Grand Prix?
"Trulli! I'd love that to happen for the team, but if it's not Jarno, I think the obvious answer is Michael Schumacher. He and Ferrari just look so strong at the moment."