Fernando Alonso: "Our objective is to keep improving." Fernando, it was a bittersweet weekend in Spain. But you were keen to focus on the progress the team made in time for the race. We undoubtedly lost an opportunity to score some important...
Fernando Alonso: "Our objective is to keep improving."
Fernando, it was a bittersweet weekend in Spain. But you were keen to focus on the progress the team made in time for the race.
We undoubtedly lost an opportunity to score some important points, which would have been very good for team morale. Both cars retired from the race, but the performance was there; we showed good pace and I believe that this is what we should take from the weekend. As it was my home race I would have liked to finish and I think that fifth place was achievable.
Do you think that the team will have the same level of performance in Turkey?
It was clear from the beginning of the weekend that we had made progress in Barcelona and I said that this was thanks to the efforts of the whole team who have worked very hard in the last few weeks to get us closer to the leading pace. This is only the first step and we will have an aggressive approach for the races to come with further new developments. I know it will not be easy, but I am sure that we will now be able to have some exciting races, and as a driver I want this more than anything.
Do you enjoy Istanbul Park?
Yes, and it reminds me of racing at other circuits, such as Spa, for example. The circuit is very wide and gives a good opportunity to overtake. There are also some special corners where you cannot see the exit and that makes Istanbul quite unusual. Turn 8 is especially interesting as it is a very long left hander where we experience more than 4g. It's a fun circuit and I hope I can take the most from it.
The Turkish Grand Prix has previously been held during the summer, but this year it takes place earlier. Do you think that the track will be any different as a result?
The conditions will probably be slightly different, especially in terms of the temperatures, but they will be the same for all the teams and so it will be important to make the most of the practice sessions on Friday to make sure we are happy with the set-up. This is not something that worries me, and we can work well on hot or cool tracks and this aspect will make the weekend interesting.
Nelson Piquet: "We must continue moving forward"
The last Grand Prix was a bit disappointing.
Yes, it's always disappointing to retire from a race, especially as a result of contact. The car was performing well and we were aiming to score points, which I think would have been possible. But we should not dwell on this, we must continue moving forward and I will keep learning. I will now try to put those lessons to good use in Istanbul so that I don't make the same mistakes again.
You already know the Istanbul Park circuit and have some good memories there.
I won there in GP2 and also took pole position and the fastest lap. It is therefore a circuit where I have some happy memories. So it will certainly be easier for me to attack this weekend and to get my car working well.
Do you think that Turn 8 will be a lot more impressive behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car?
Turn 8 is certainly one of the more interesting on the calendar. It is extremely fast and a tough test for the driver. I don't know if it will be more difficult in a Formula 1 car; maybe on the contrary because of the superior performance of the car, especially with the aerodynamic grip available. To be honest I cannot wait to see what it is like from my cockpit.
The team seemed to have made good progress in Spain. What will be the objective for Turkey?
We have progressed well, but there is still a lot to do and the whole team is working hard. I hope the weekend will allow me to keep learning and reaching Q3 will once again be my goal. I will need to work well with my engineers during Friday practice in order to get the most from my car so that we can approach the Grand Prix calmly.
Pat Symonds: "It's disappointing to have the promise unfulfilled, but it's better than not having any promise at all."
Pat, ultimately the Spanish Grand Prix was a case of unrealised potential, but the team took a big step forward in terms of performance. How do you look back on the weekend?
When we went testing in Barcelona before the Grand Prix, we only knew what improvements we had made to our own vehicle, and we had to keep in mind that all the other teams would have new upgrades coming for the first European race. So although we were confident that we had improved, all that really mattered was how much we had improved compared to the others. It was still not until Saturday afternoon and qualifying that we had a true idea of where we stood. So to get both cars into the top ten in qualifying was a big relief; we now know that the pace really is there relative to the others.
Fernando's home race ended prematurely, how did he feel after the race?
Fernando was pretty upbeat after the race, which is a good attitude to have because although it's terribly disappointing to have the promise unfulfilled, it's better than not having any promise at all. That's the attitude the whole team has taken to the result because we were racing a lot closer towards the front than we have been for a considerable period of time. But we need to start scoring points again and if we had not shown the potential we did in Spain, then I don't think we would know how we were going to get those points. The fact is that we have shown the potential and therefore we can go out and race for the points.
As you say Nelson had another short lived race after a midfield collision, but how was his weekend overall?
It was very nearly a perfect weekend, spoiled by one mistake, which is a great shame because on Friday, when the track conditions were poor, he dealt with the car exceptionally well. He was quick on Saturday and his qualifying time in Q2 was very impressive and right up there with Fernando's time. So it was great to see him reach Q3, where his fuel-corrected time was still impressive and was not far behind Fernando. And let's remember that we are comparing a rookie with a double world champion, and so to be close to Fernando is a great credit. It's just a pity that the race was spoiled by one silly mistake, which ultimately led to the collision with Bourdais.
Can the team deliver an equally strong performance in Istanbul? Aerodynamic efficiency pays dividends at nearly every track, and so there
is no reason to believe that we will not be in a similar position in Istanbul. I firmly believe that we are within 1% of the leading team now, which is a big improvement from where we were at the beginning of the season. But we must not be complacent because there is still a lot to do and so we will introduce further aero upgrades in time for Istanbul.
What about the mood in the team at the moment?
There is a great deal more confidence at the moment, although I think it's fair to say that the belief that we would progress has always been there because nearly all the guys in the team have been through the winning experience of a couple of years ago. The last few weeks have been very hard for the team and so there is no better reward than seeing the evidence on the track of all the work that has gone on. It makes everybody upbeat and ready to put a lot more in for the coming weeks.
Renault at the Turkish Grand Prix
The Turkish Grand Prix is one of the most recent additions to the Formula 1 World Championship having been held since 2005 at Istanbul Park. However, the anti-clockwise circuit has already established itself as one of the most exciting in the world and has been well received by the drivers. As a purpose-built facility, the circuit follows the layout of the land and features the daunting Turn 8, which is already acknowledged as one of the finest in the sport.
The first Turkish Grand Prix in 2005 coincided with Renault and Fernando Alonso's fight to secure the constructors' and drivers' world titles. The Renault cars were well suited to the new circuit, although on race day it was the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen which held the upper-hand and secured victory. But there was excitement in the closing stages as Fernando Alonso stole second place from Raikkonen's teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, on the final lap as the Columbian lost grip in the middle of the Turn 8, allowing the Spaniard through to strengthen his grip on the world championship.
A year later and this time Renault was up against Ferrari in the battle for the constructors' championship with Alonso contesting the drivers' title with Michael Schumacher. The Italian squad may have held the advantage, but they were denied a one-two as Fernando Alonso managed to jump ahead of Schumacher after an early safety car period. While the other Ferrari of Felipe Massa went on to win the race, the main interest centred on the epic battle between Alonso and Schumacher for second. After waging battle in the closing stages, Alonso took second place as the pair crossed the line almost side-by-side.
In last year's race the Renault team was unable to challenge for a podium, but Heikki Kovalainen delivered a convincing drive to earn sixth place. Points remain the goal for the team this year with both Fernando and Nelson keen to make the most of their experience at Istanbul Park.
Istanbul: Over at Red Bull Racing
Fabrice Lom, who looks after the activities of Renault F1 with Red Bull Racing, looks ahead to this weekend in Turkey.
Fabrice, what did you take from the first European race of the season?
We saw that the engines suffered in Spain as several drivers retired from the race. For us, despite a difficult race with David being affected by the safety car and the contact with Glock, it was overall a positive weekend. We have strengthened our position in the championship thanks to the four points scored by Mark and in the current climate, where the competition is so tight, each point is important. We made good progress, and apparently more than Toyota and Williams, who are our closest rivals. It is therefore encouraging for the rest of the season.
The next challenge is in Turkey this weekend. Is it a tough circuit for the engine?
Turkey is a circuit that is relatively hard for the engine with the car on full throttle for quite a long time, which is always a challenge. But the main characteristic of this Grand Prix is without doubt the fine dust in the air which it is difficult to stop, even with our air filters, and this tends to pollute the engine. This is always a parameter that we pay particular attention to, especially at the beginning of the weekend. The Turkish Grand Prix therefore represents an interesting challenge on several levels for our engine team.
Usually held in the summer, the Turkish Grand Prix is being held earlier in the calendar this year. Does that change your approach?
Apparently it should not be too hot, and not as hot as the previous races there, but that does not really change our preparation for the Grand Prix. David will be on the second Grand Prix with his engine, while Mark will have a fresh engine. This has both advantages and disadvantages, but as we will be in Monaco next where the impact on the life of the engine is not so significant, it is more of an advantage to have a new engine here. Turkey is not a challenge that we fear; it is an interesting circuit for the drivers and the engineers, and we are looking forward to it.
ING Renault F1 Team in numbers
Almost 1000, that's the number of meals served but the ING Renault F1 Team during the three days of a Grand Prix.