The ING Renault F1 Team reflects on the opening race of the season in Melbourne and looks ahead to this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Fernando Alonso: "I expect our car to be more suited to Sepang" Fernando, Australia was a tough...
The ING Renault F1 Team reflects on the opening race of the season in Melbourne and looks ahead to this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.
Fernando Alonso: "I expect our car to be more suited to Sepang"
Fernando, Australia was a tough weekend for the team, yet you must be happy to come away with four points...
Yes, considering how our weekend went in Australia, we have to be happy to have come away with some points. I lost a lot of positions at the start of the race as I had to avoid the first corner accident in front of me and from then on I was at the back of the field and fighting to recover the lost ground. As usual the first race of the year was quite eventful and in the closing stages we were able to take advantage of the incidents to move up into fifth position. Although it's nice to have the points, we know we must work hard to improve the car, but we have the belief that we can do that.
Looking ahead to Sepang in Malaysia, what areas do you feel you need to concentrate on?
In Australia we struggled in qualifying and our race suffered as a result. So we need to make sure we qualify well so that we can have a strong race. We also need to make sure we get the most from our KERS system at the start of the race as there is a long run to the first corner where it should make a big difference. We must also concentrate on understanding the tyres because Melbourne showed that the two compounds play a major role in determining the performance of the car. This will be particularly important in Malaysia where the track temperatures will be very high so we need to see how the tyres perform in these conditions.
What are your expectations for the race this weekend?
Sepang is totally different to Melbourne and so I expect our car to be more suited to the circuit. It's a special track for me as I've won there twice and it's probably my favourite circuit so I always enjoy racing there. There are lots of fast, sweeping corners and it's a circuit where you can really appreciate the performance of a Formula 1 car. In terms of our competitiveness, I hope we will be stronger there, but as we saw in Melbourne all the teams are very closely matched and we will have to fight hard to finish in the points.
Nelson Piquet: "I'm fully focussed on coming back with a strong weekend in Malaysia"
Nelson, your race in Melbourne ended early, but until your retirement you were looking competitive...
Yes, I had a really good start to the race and made up a lot of ground on the first lap, but after the safety car came out I started having some problems with the brakes. When the race restarted I was fighting with Rosberg and managed to get passed him, but when I touched the brakes they were totally gone, which caused me to spin into the gravel. Fortunately I didn't hit anything and there was no damage to the car, but it was a real shame because I was well placed and I think we could have had a strong finish in the points.
Tell us about the Sepang circuit and what it's like to race there...
It's a very wide and open track which offers several good overtaking opportunities and usually produces close and competitive racing. There are two long straights where our KERS should make a difference and help us to overtake. In terms of the hot temperatures, it is always a very physical race for the drivers as well as the team, but I've been training hard over the winter to prepare for the season and so the heat and humidity should not be too much of an issue.
How will you approach this weekend's race in Malaysia?
I've already put Melbourne behind me and I'm fully focussed on coming back with a strong weekend in Sepang. We know we need to improve our performance, but we also learnt a lot about the R29 in Melbourne and we will use that information during free practice to try and find a better balance with the car. As a circuit Sepang will also give us a better idea of our competitiveness as it's a more conventional track than Melbourne and I'm looking forward to driving there.
Bob Bell: "I'm confident we can do a better job in Malaysia"
Bob, what was your verdict on the team's performance last weekend in Australia?
I don't think we lived up to the expectations that we set ourselves before Australia. We thought we would be more competitive than the performance we actually delivered, although I suspect part of that is due to the nature of the track. Albert Park is a circuit that didn't really suit the characteristics of the car and so we suspected we might be in for a difficult weekend. We now have to work to try and understand why that was the case and rectify it as best we can in time for Malaysia.
Were you surprised by how closely matched all the teams were? Could this be a result of the new 2009 regulations?
Yes, it was a surprise as there was a group of teams behind the Brawn cars that were particularly closely matched. That's surprising as we expected the new regulations to spread the pack out a little bit more, which is what normally happens following a change of regulations. Normally you only get such parity when the regulations have been in place for a year or so as it allows the teams to converge on the optimum design solutions. It's just surprising how close it was in Melbourne and it will be interesting to see if this continues in Sepang this weekend.
The team needs to improve its competitiveness, how can this be done?
I don't think we have a specific problem. I think that we need to lift our game in several areas to get more aero performance from the car. We've also got to get the balance of the car a bit more to the drivers' liking and work on the tuning of the KERS system to get more from it. So it's a question of maximising what we already have in all areas rather than a specific problem to resolve.
What are your expectations for Malaysia -- will the circuit suit the car?
The Sepang circuit is very smooth which should be more to our advantage compared with the bumpier surface that caused us problems in Melbourne. I also think the KERS system will be more of a benefit in Malaysia as the circuit has a couple of long straights and so I'm confident we can do a better job this weekend. With Australia and Malaysia being back-to-back races, we won't be able to introduce any new developments in such a short space of time and so we need to concentrate on getting more performance out of our existing package.