The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for round six of the season: the Monaco Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso: "Monaco is the race that all the drivers want to win" Fernando, you had a strong home Grand Prix in Barcelona. Did you enjoy the...
The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for round six of the season: the Monaco Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso: "Monaco is the race that all the drivers want to win"
Fernando, you had a strong home Grand Prix in Barcelona. Did you enjoy the race?
Yes, racing at home is always a big motivation and although we couldn't fight for the podium, we got the maximum from the car and I was pleased to finish fifth. I was lucky towards the end of the race when Felipe [Massa] slowed, but it was exciting to gain an extra point on the final lap. We still need to take a big step forward with the car to get to the front, but we are making progress at each race and we have scored some more important points.
Monaco is a circuit where you've won twice. Tell us about the challenge of racing there...
It's one of my favourite races of the year and I have happy memories from winning there in 2006 and 2007. It's definitely the race that all the drivers want to win. The first lap of free practice on Thursday is always a great feeling and you have to readjust and get used to racing on such narrow streets with the barriers all around you. Overtaking is difficult and it's a mentally demanding race as there's not a moment to relax. But above all, Monaco is about the show for the fans and spectators who can get really close to the cars.
How are you approaching this weekend?
The most important thing is to qualify as near to the front of the grid as possible because doing well in Monaco is all about having track position. We therefore need to make sure we find clear space on the track in qualifying so we don't get caught out by the traffic. All the teams bring new packages to Monaco as the track is so unusual and we will use a special set-up to cope with the bumps and tight corners. In terms of a result, I think we can realistically hope to qualify in the top ten and aim for points in the race.
Nelson Piquet: "There is always a great atmosphere in Monaco"
Nelson, you managed to avoid the first corner crash in Barcelona, but it was a difficult race for you...
Yes, the accident happened all around me and I was lucky to avoid most of the debris. However, it was difficult to find the right balance with the car all weekend and so it was a tough race. I didn't have all the new developments on my car and so I was missing some performance, but hopefully I will be able to use them in Monaco.
Do you enjoy racing in Monaco?
Yes, it's probably the most famous race in the world and so it does feel special to drive there. There's a great atmosphere for the whole week in the lead up to the race and it's one of the races were the fans can really get close to the team. I used to live in Monaco when I was a kid and racing there as a Formula 1 driver is something I always dreamed about so it's pretty cool.
What are your hopes for the race?
Overtaking is almost impossible at Monaco so it's important that we can qualify near the front, hopefully in the top ten, and make the strategy work. The streets are narrow and the walls so close that you really cannot afford to lose concentration for a second or make the slightest mistake. It's normally an eventful race and so we need to be ready to take advantage of any situation that comes our way.
Bob Bell "Monaco is a fabulous track and the whole team enjoys racing there"
Bob, the team seemed more competitive in Spain -- were you pleased with the overall performance?
We were a little bit disappointed with our pace in the final part of qualifying, but during the race we saw the performance that we expected and overall we were pleased with the result. We knew we weren't going to jump to the front of the pack, but we were determined to close the gap to the leading teams, and I think that's what we've done. Considering where we were at the start of the season, it was a nice reward for all the hard work and effort that has gone in behind the scenes.
With all the teams pushing hard to develop their cars, how difficult is it to take a major step forward?
You can only do your utmost to develop faster than the competition and I think as a team we are good at doing that, as we demonstrated in the second half of last year. We're in a similar position this year, but it's even more challenging now with limited wind tunnel and CFD time available and no in-season testing. But it's the same for everybody and all we can do is continue working hard, keep our motivation high, and keep pushing developments through and onto the car as fast as we can.
What can you tell us about the evolution of the R29 -- will there be any further developments for Monaco?
Yes, we have some minor updates because Monaco always needs a slightly different package, for example it requires the most steering lock of any track we visit. It won't be as big a step as we made in Barcelona, but we are still hopeful of adding some performance to the car to keep closing the gap to the leaders
How challenging is the Monaco Grand Prix for the team?
It's a very challenging weekend because there is never much space and the facilities are limited. But it's a fabulous track; everybody enjoys it and there's always a great atmosphere. It's an interesting and demanding circuit where it's very easy to make a mistake and experience counts for a lot. Because there is no margin for error, we often see safety cars during the race and so we need to be ready to react quickly and make the most of any opportunities.