Renault's Spanish star Fernando Alonso tells the story of his weekend Down Under... and his podium finish. "I was looking forward to getting to Melbourne and finding out exactly how we shaped up: we spent the previous week in Tokyo for Mild...
Renault's Spanish star Fernando Alonso tells the story of his weekend Down Under... and his podium finish.
"I was looking forward to getting to Melbourne and finding out exactly how we shaped up: we spent the previous week in Tokyo for Mild Seven and had a good time there, doing a press conference to launch their new brand identity. That meant we arrived in Melbourne early and had plenty of time to get acclimatised, do some training and by the time things got underway on Friday, I was dying to get in the car and start running!"
"Friday was slightly frustrating: we did plenty of laps, but it is a new challenge to have even more pressure on every single lap you drive: the new engine rules mean you want to preserve it as much as possible in all conditions so, as a driver, you cannot afford any mistakes at all every time you are out on the circuit: in laps, out laps, all of them."
"We made some good steps in terms of set-up during the two hours, and by the end, I was pretty happy with the car: we finished fifth overall, and I thought we were pretty competitive, especially on longer runs with old tyres. There was still some performance to find for the single lap, but we were confident we would have the time to do it on Saturday."
"Saturday morning started well: we made the right tyre choice and got straight down to work. Again, we ran more laps than some of our competitors, but we had a trouble-free day. The car balance was good and in final practice, we were able to use the engine at full revs: at that point, everything felt good. The first qualifying session was not exactly thrilling, but we got a good finish even though I was being cautious."
"For the second session, I pushed a bit harder and put in a good lap: we were quite a long way back from Ferrari, but pretty much where we expected with such close competition. At this circuit, in qualifying trim, fifth was a good result for us and set us up well for the race, with Button and Montoya right in front. On Saturday evening, I was feeling confident for Sunday."
"There were no problems on the install lap and formation, and I lined up on the grid just behind Montoya. The start was fairly dramatic: the car got away from the line brilliantly and I was soon alongside the Williams. He moved left to block me, so I just went round him... with two wheels on the grass! I lost a bit of speed there, and we were level under braking for the first corner: the key, though, was that I was on the clean side of the circuit. We braked at the same time, but he was on the dust and went straight on as I turned in: I came through and found myself third behind the Ferraris. We soon saw that I was too slow to keep up with them, but I was pulling away from Jenson quite quickly and the Williams were behind him."
"The car felt really good during the race: it had a nice balance, and was easy to drive. We just went about a fairly straightforward three stop strategy, with the stints getting a bit longer towards the end. Overall, it was a relatively simple race from my point of view: I didn't have any close competition after the start."
"It's a fantastic surprise to finish on the podium, and a good present for all the people back at Viry and Enstone who have worked so hard through the winter. Our aim for these first three races was to get some point in the bank and wait for the engine steps later in the year before really challenging at the front. It's fantastic to have done so well so early. There's still lots to do, but late nights are always easier to take when there's a good reward at the end!