Comments from the Renault drivers ahead of the Australian Grand Prix Jarno Trulli -- Race Driver Q: Jarno, your first race with the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team came twelve months ago in Melbourne. On the eve of the first round of the 2003 ...
Comments from the Renault drivers ahead of the Australian Grand Prix
Jarno Trulli -- Race Driver
Q: Jarno, your first race with the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team came twelve months ago in Melbourne. On the eve of the first round of the 2003 season, what are the key differences for you compared to last year?
JT: A lot has changed since last year: I understand more about the car, I am totally integrated into the team, and most importantly I know my engineers a lot better, and how to work with them. I feel very confident for this season: understanding everything about the car gives me more confidence to push it to the limit, and find the last tenths of a second. Everything is looking much, much better than at the start of 2002.
Q: Since you last raced at Suzuka in October, major changes have been introduced to the sport. What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge during the Melbourne weekend?
JT: Everything! It has been all change over the winter, and it is all still unknown territory for us: Friday morning testing, the new-style qualifying. Also, the weather at the last test in Barcelona (17-20 February) means I still haven't had a chance to evaluate the new aero package properly, because we ran on the short (National) circuit at Silverstone last week, so I will only feel the difference from that on Friday in Melbourne as well!
Q: What impact do you think that Friday morning testing will have on your race weekend?
JT: For me, it is just a question of preparation: the extra running will mean we can prepare ourselves much better than the other teams. We have worked hard over the winter, and we know what needs to be done to make the most of the changes. I think it should be a good advantage for us.
Q: What are the biggest challenges of the Melbourne circuit?
JT: The circuit itself is nothing special. From my point of view, the biggest challenge will be to get to the flag since I didn't finish last year. But whatever happens, I will have fun over the weekend: it may be a long journey, but I like Australia as a country, and always enjoy the race in Melbourne.
Fernando Alonso -- Race Driver
Q: Fernando, Melbourne will be your first race for almost eighteen months. What are you looking forward to most?
FA: Basically, it is going to be that feeling of being part of a race weekend in F1, and having a job to do. When you sit on the grid, and the lights are red, you get this special feeling, waiting for the clutch to bite: there is nothing else like it. Of course, if I can finish as well, then we have a good chance of scoring points: there are always lots of retirements in Melbourne, so if you can get through the race, then 90% of the time you can pick up something. They would be my first points in Formula 1: that's obviously one of my priorities.
Q: You have only raced in Melbourne once before. How useful will the extra two hours on Friday morning be for you?
FA: For me, it will definitely be a good advantage over the other new drivers: although I have raced there once before, and done a lot of laps because I finished the race, Melbourne is the kind of circuit where you always need more laps. It is impossible to test there during the year, so even if you have been racing there for seven years, it's always a track you forget during the season and need to re-learn. It will be fantastic for me to have those two extra hours, especially for qualifying on Friday afternoon.
Q: Will you be doing any specific preparation for the new race weekend format?
FA: I think the preparation will be more for the Team than me. The engineers will need to work very hard, and where last year, they only had to focus on race set-up on Friday, now they need to think about the race, but also making the car quick for the afternoon. In terms of the drivers, the important thing will be to warm up properly. You can't get maximum performance over just one lap without some kind of preparation.
Q: You drove the R23 with the Melbourne-spec aero package at the last Barcelona test. How confident do you feel ahead of the race?
FA: The feeling of the car is good. When we got the new chassis in November, that was a big step forward compared to last year, and the bodywork brings more performance. I have had a very positive winter: I have enjoyed driving the car in qualifying set-up, compared to last year where I was focusing on reliability work, with old tyres: when you are able to go quick, it makes you feel like a real driver. I know that I am a better driver than last year, and the Team knows we have a competitive car: we are all very confident.
Allan McNish -- Test Driver
Q: Allan, what are your main objectives for this weekend in Melbourne?
AM: Personally, I have two inter-linked objectives. If I do a good job, and that helps Renault get a good result, then that obviously reflects well on me, but linked with that is the detail of what I have to do on Friday to help the Team. We need to get a baseline for the set-up, an idea of the tyre choice, and basically understand how to run the R23 at this circuit. From what we have learned so far, my set-ups at Barcelona and Valencia were pretty close to what Jarno and Fernando have run in the car -- that should mean my work should be very representative for my team-mates.
Q: Melbourne is a temporary street circuit. Do you think the constantly-changing track conditions will hamper the effectiveness of the Friday morning session?
AM: Not really. I think the dirty track could affect us in the first half hour, but you have to remember that the circuit is rubbering-in throughout the weekend, and changing all the time. All the teams have to follow how the track evolves, so nothing different will be happening for us: all it means is that we will be getting used to it early, and getting extra running time. Where the other drivers may only manage fourteen or fifteen laps during the hour on Friday morning, we should do 45 or 50 each. That's a big advantage.
Q: How tough is it going to be to have to get out of the car at 10:30 on Friday morning and watch from the sidelines?
AM: I'm a racing driver, so obviously, I would prefer not to be stepping out of the car! But although nothing can replace racing, that doesn't mean my involvement stops there: I will be present at all the debriefs, and that will mean that we have the experience of an extra set of driving hands -- I have raced in Melbourne before, and that could help. If I can't be racing, this is the next best thing!
Q: So, overall, you're looking forward to the start of the new season?
AM: Everybody in Melbourne is always very friendly, and up for a party --the Aussies always put on a good show! It will be interesting to finally find out who's quick and who's not: I think it's going to be an excellent start to the new season.