Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix Fernando Alonso: Q: You have won three consecutive races -- but Ferrari were very fast in San Marino. How do you analyse the situation? FA: We were certainly slower than Ferrari...
Comments from the Renault team ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix
Q: You have won three consecutive races -- but Ferrari were very fast in San Marino. How do you analyse the situation?
FA: We were certainly slower than Ferrari in Imola, even if we don't know for definite the reasons why, and the whole team has been working very hard to push even more for Barcelona. But I think that Ferrari found very special conditions in San Marino that worked perfectly for them: it is not normal for one car to be so fast compared to every other car in the field, not just ours.
Certainly, we are not now fighting the same Ferrari team we saw at the first three races, but I don't think we will be facing the same strength as in Imola either. Hopefully things will be tougher for them this weekend.
Q: So, are you optimistic for your chances at your home race?
FA: If you look at the results, a Renault has won the first four races of the season, so everything is still there to fight for. Historically, Barcelona has been a much better circuit for the team than Imola, so we have to be confident for this race. But the other teams are very quick, and we all test there so everybody knows the circuit. I think the competition will be very close, even more than we saw in Bahrain or Imola.
Q: Giancarlo, in four races, you have had one win and three retirements: how do you react to that?
GF: I have been in Formula 1 a long time, and I know that the only way you can react is to be positive. For sure, it has been frustrating but from my point of view, I know that the failures I have suffered have actually helped the team: in Malaysia, the front wing failed but the team corrected the problem, and we have had no difficulties since; the lessons from the engine problem in Bahrain meant that Fernando was able to complete his race in Imola, and maintain the team's lead in the championship.
All our rivals are pushing very hard as well, and the top teams have not had perfect reliability -- but these things happen in Formula 1, and we have worked to solve the problems. The team has reacted very positively and we now have a faster, more reliable car. I am determined to respond in the same way, and want to start scoring points again as soon as possible.
Q: Starting at Barcelona?
GF: I hope so! It is a circuit we know really well because we do thousands of kilometres there during the winter in testing, and we pretty much know what set-up we need even before we arrive. It is important to have a very stable balance, because you need to be aggressive with the car and if you don't have that confidence, you really lose a lot of time on the lap. The tyres are worked hard too, and although we will probably start the race with an under-steering car, it will be important to be gentle on the rear tyres because I think by the end of the race, people will be struggling with braking and traction.
Q: How do you expect the car to perform there?
GF: I think the R25 will be quick in Barcelona, really quick. In the last seasons, Renault have always been fast there and already this year in testing, we have been fast on the timed lap and then very consistent on the long runs. Of course, Fernando will have huge support there and that will bring him a boost but I have already seen from testing that while they are supporting him, they also give me a very warm welcome -- they want to see me do well too.
Things will be quite difficult because I am running early in first qualifying again, but as long as the lap is trouble-free, then I can get into a good grid position for a strong result. It will be important for me to start scoring points again.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering:
Q: Pat, the team won the last race in Imola, yet the R25 was not the fastest car in the field. What are your expectations for Barcelona?
PS: I expect us to be fighting for the win. There is no doubt that Ferrari were the class of the field in Imola but paradoxically, the size of their performance advantage was too great to be purely down to an improvement from the car. I think they had a combination of car and tyres that was better suited to that track, in those conditions, on that day.
But that only means their package was better at that circuit; it does not automatically follow they will have the same advantage in Spain. Our car has been extremely competitive at each test in Barcelona, and we have to go to the race confident of fighting for victory.
Q: Looking at Schumacher's pace, some might say the team got a 'lucky' win -- how do you answer that?
PS: We certainly got a slice of luck because had Michael's race effectively started earlier than it did, which was when he finally got clear of traffic around lap 20, then we would have seen a different result. But that set of circumstances is no different to those faced by Fernando in Australia, when he also came through the field. So yes, there was some luck involved, but that should not obscure the fact that we had a car that was competitive enough to lead the race, and a driver skilful enough to hold Michael off at the end.
Q: On the downside, Giancarlo's car failed to finish once again in Imola -- that must be a worry for the team?
PS: In 2005, we have had eight starts and recorded three retirements, all of them down to reliability issues, whether directly or indirectly. That is hurting us in the championship, and we are under no illusions that we have to get both cars finishing the races as soon as possible. As for Giancarlo, the situation has undoubtedly been frustrating for him, but he is doing a great job for the team.
He won his first race in Australia and although he has been hampered by reliability problems since then, we have seen both his pure pace and his combative racing instincts on the occasions that the car has allowed him to show them. We know he can bounce back strongly in the coming races.
Q: Barcelona is renowned as a very difficult circuit for tyres, but the track was resurfaced over the winter. What has changed?
PS: First and foremost, it still remains a very hard circuit for the tyres, although it is perhaps less aggressive than it used to be. At the start of the winter, we saw much lower tyre wear than previously, but in recent months it appears that the circuit has been getting more of its old characteristics back, and it could continue to do so as the race weekend progresses.
Michelin worked extremely effectively over the winter to respond to the challenge of the new rules, and the victories in the first four races speak for themselves. There is no doubt that we are now in the midst of a very tough battle, but it is a challenge we relish.
Q: Finally, how do you see the competition shaping up in Spain?
PS: Ferrari will be a big threat, of course, although we need to wait and see how much of their Imola performance translates to the conditions in Barcelona; McLaren will be very competitive, Toyota should be fast there and maybe even Williams too. The track's demands for good aerodynamic efficiency certainly suits our car, but I think that overall, the fight at the front is much more open than we have seen in recent years.