Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Italian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso Q: Fernando, two weeks on from the race in Istanbul, what are your thoughts on the Turkish Grand Prix from Renault's perspective? Fernando Alonso: I think the...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Italian Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, two weeks on from the race in Istanbul, what are your thoughts on the Turkish Grand Prix from Renault's perspective?
Fernando Alonso: I think the team did a fantastic job in Turkey. We have had a strange summer, with the mass damper decision and some poor results, so it was good to prove to everybody that the car is competitive regardless. We really fought hard in that race, and it shows we are ready to fight with Ferrari all the way to the end of the championship.
Q: You kept Michael behind you for fifteen laps -- was it revenge for Imola earlier this year?
FA: You try and finish ahead of your competitors in every race. It is always difficult to overtake in F1, and we had the luck to do it in the pits. From that point, I knew it wouldn't be easy for Michael to get back past, so I defended my position in the normal way. It was an important result.
Q: Monza is one of the mythical F1 tracks. What would it mean to win there?
FA: This year I have won in Silverstone, in Monaco, in Spain -- and for sure, I want to win Monza too. It is one of the legendary circuits, so it would be special to win there, and even more so to beat Ferrari at their home race. We know how important the championship is, but this is a big race as well.
Q: You run with the lowest downforce levels of the season -- how does it feel to drive?
FA: It feels like a different car when you drive in Monza. You have such low downforce that by the time you get to the end of the straight, it feels like you could fly! The steering feels light, the movements are a bit lazy, and you don't quite feel like you have everything under control. It's not a nice feeling for the driver, but it's what you need at Monza to be quick on the straights.
Q: So is straightline speed what you focus on in practice?
FA: No, it's more than that. You need the speed but when you are running low downforce, it's hard to get good braking stability and ride over the kerbs. That's what we are always asking the engineers for -- better ride on the kerbs, and more stable braking.
Q: What are your goals for the race weekend?
FA: There is only one target for the Renault team at the moment: to finish in front of Ferrari. They have been quite dominant in the last races, so beating them means winning races. That is our focus.
Q: Giancarlo, you finished sixth in Turkey after a strong race -- but Renault lost ground in the championship. What are your feelings two weeks later?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Turkey was a difficult race. I lost control of the car at the first car because I was very close to Fernando and wanted to avoid an accident. After that, we changed strategy and the race pace was very good -- with the help of the Safety Car, I went from 17th to 6th. They were important points for the team, and I did my best. But we know it is important to be fighting for the podium at every race now.
Q: Tell us about Monza...
GF: Well, it's my home race, so obviously special for that reason. I have a good feeling with the track: I won there in Formula 3, and got on the podium last year, being the first Italian to do it since Alboreto 17 years earlier. That was a great result, but a win would be even more special.
Q: Can you describe the good feeling you have there?
GF: We run with very low downforce, the grip level is low and it's not easy to slow the car down from 350 kph to 60 kph for Turn 1, the slowest chicane. When the grip conditions are poor, I generally have a good level of confidence, like in Canada, and I am able to be consistent. That will be especially important for the race.
Q: This year, you go to Monza locked in a battle with Ferrari. As an Italian driver, fighting an Italian team at the Italian Grand Prix, will it be a strange feeling?
GF: It is going to be interesting! There will be lots of tifosi pushing Ferrari along, but as an Italian, I know I will have support as well. I am looking forward to the weekend!
Q: You are fourth in the championship, ten points behind Massa. Is your target for the season to finish third?
GF: Yes, absolutely, and I know I can do it. I lost ground to Massa at the last race, so now I have to do the maximum and catch up the ten points I am missing at the moment. I have really high motivation to do it.
Q: And what will be your main assets in that battle?
GF: Number one, the team, the car and the tyres. We have a really strong package and it is being developed all the way to the end of the year. After that, I need to score the maximum points, try to get four podiums -- and win at least one of the races. If I can do that, then it can help Renault take the championship at the end of the year.
Bob Bell, Technical Director
The Renault F1 Team's Technical Director discusses the championship ahead of the season's final phase.
Q: Bob, the Renault F1 Team went into the test ban with a 21 point lead in the Constructors' Championship -- and leaves it two points ahead. Have you lost momentum?
Bob Bell: It is a mathematical fact that the constructors' championship has closed up significantly during August. Clearly, the team suffered from the fact that the loss of the Tuned Mass Damper (TMD) coincided with the summer test ban. We have now had the chance to reoptimize the R26, and the events of the summer have made us hungrier to prove we can do the job. Our points-scoring momentum might have dipped, but importantly there is no loss of momentum in the team's effort to put out a winning car at each race. We will be working as hard as humanly possible to come out on top of what will be a very close battle, as the advantage swings back and forth between us and Ferrari.
Q: In some senses, one might suggest that 2006 is simply a four-race world championship...
Q: That's certainly one way to look at it. After fourteen races, we are essentially all square with Ferrari. We have four races left, where we can be very aggressive because the titles are there to be won -- and we have to seize that opportunity. Renault built a big lead in the first four races of the year, and although it will be a lot tougher now, there is no reason why we cannot do it again.
Q: Starting in Monza?
BB: Monza is going to be a hard race, there's no doubt about it. We are in the heart of Ferrari territory. But you can look at it two ways: as a boost for them, or an added incentive for us to get the upper hand. Certainly, we are very motivated to return them the favour after they won on our home turf in Magny-Cours... I think Monza will suit the strengths of their package, but last week's test was very close and there is no reason to believe our package is weaker than theirs. We have the special Monza aero items on the car, and a good engine upgrade for Fernando who will use a D-spec engine. I believe we are in strong shape.
Q: Flavio said in Turkey that the team will be concentrating on the drivers' championship first and foremost in the final races...
BB: I think we have to be aiming to win both championships, in the knowledge that if we do our maximum to get the constructors, then that will bring the drivers' title with it. The drivers' championship has great public cachet, but the constructors' title means a huge amount to everybody involved with the team. There are developments for the car and engine in the pipeline until the very last race, and notably we will be bringing some ideas from next year's car out of the wind tunnel and onto the R26.
Q: It has been said that the championship will essentially come down to tyres. Do you agree?
BB: I certainly think that the advantage will swing back and forth according to who gets their tyre selection right, and who gets it wrong. Michelin are working flat out to develop new products and the results from testing were certainly promising. Our expectation is to see a very even situation between the two tyre manufacturers until the end of the year, and we hope that our partnership with Michelin can bring us a decisive advantage.
Q: So what will be the secret to winning the 2006 championships?
BB: As ever, there's no secret -- just hard work, creativity and professionalism. Neither team can afford mistakes, or unreliability. At this stage, a DNF would be fatal. But we also have to be resolute in our approach. Pressure can sometimes cause unusual responses, but at Renault we will be keeping our natural rhythm, our working processes and our conviction that going racing our way can bring success. The easiest thing to do would be to react in a knee-jerk fashion, and trip ourselves up. The championships are there to be won in 2006, and we are completely focused on doing just that.