Renault driver Fernando Alonso as a go-kart mechanic? It's not as far-fetched as it might seem... Q: We have not heard from you since the end of the season: what have you been up to? Fernando Alonso. Photo by LAT ...
Renault driver Fernando Alonso as a go-kart mechanic? It's not as far-fetched as it might seem...
Q: We have not heard from you since the end of the season: what have you been up to?
Fernando Alonso: After Brazil, I took a holiday -- it was a long season, and I needed some time away from Formula One. But since then, I have been doing events for our sponsors, I went to Viry to meet the personnel in our factory there, and I began my work for 2005 this week with a seat fitting at Enstone. My testing starts after Christmas to prepare myself for the R25, which should be running in late January.
I am excited about the car having seen it in the wind-tunnel -- I am confident it will be another competitive car, and the team is working hard to reduce the effects of the regulation changes. The signs at Viry are positive as well, and the engine is giving good results on the dyno.
Q: Looking back on 2004, what is your assessment of the season?
FA: First of all, it was a stronger season than in 2003. I did not get a race win, but as a driver, I matured: I finished on the podium four times, and lost some fantastic opportunities with reliability problems where I could have had at least three more podiums. But the whole team moved up another level from 2003 and the same was true for me.
We scored more points, finished higher in the championship and I had the feeling I had put in a more complete season. The last few races were difficult, because our competitors seemed to pick up speed and we didn't, but the car was still good enough to fight near the podium. The team started working for 2005 very early, and even if we lost some speed at the end of the year, we expect the choices to pay off next season.
Q: For 2005, you will be going into your third season as a race driver with Renault: what have you learned in that time?
FA: Every year, experience teaches you new things, and you learn more every time you step in the car. With each race, I think you improve some details and make part of your performance stronger than before. When I am driving, I am aggressive, but I know that you have to finish races first and foremost: it seems like an obvious thing to say, but it is more difficult than it seems. When you are running at the front of the field, you need to learn how to finish races consistently.
Q: You are the third-youngest driver ever to race in Formula One: what is it like, growing up in the paddock?
FA: Formula One is a strange world but if you have clear values, you can maintain the separation between truth and fiction, what is real and what is not. If people praise you, you cannot let it go to your head, because at the next race you will be criticised if the result did not meet their expectations.
It has been a strange feeling to become a celebrity -- but it is a boost to know that people around the world are following what I do, and supporting me. Since 2001, I have learned a lot and prepared myself for the future. When I am at the circuit, I am at work: I focus 100% on trying to get the best possible performance in the race. I don't properly relax until I am away from the paddock.
Q: When you do leave the paddock, what kind of person are you?
FA: I am a normal guy. I have simple tastes, and normal interests: meeting up with my friends, supporting my football team... But I do not think it is easy to say what kind of person somebody is -- there are as many types as there are people in the world, and every individual is different. I just see myself as being lucky -- my job is also what I enjoy most in the world, and I can gain a living through it.
Honestly, I was never certain that I could become a Formula One driver, although I have raced since I was very young, always with the objective of being number one. But until a few years ago, I thought I would probably become a go-kart mechanic.
Q: Looking ahead to 2005, what will be your objectives for the next season?
FA: It is too early to talk about specific targets -- we need to wait for the car to run, then we will have a better idea. However, the team has high expectations and personally, I have just one aim: to improve on 2004. Renault have given me the chance to perform at the highest level in Formula One, and that is exactly what I intend to do.