Renault drivers Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella answer questions ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix Fernando Alonso Q: Fernando, what are your feelings as you approach the first race? Fernando Alonso: I am happy. The team has done a...
Renault drivers Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella answer questions ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix
Q: Fernando, what are your feelings as you approach the first race?
Fernando Alonso: I am happy. The team has done a good job with the car, the R26 seems very competitive, and we are ready to go to the first race to try and score a lot of points.
Q: Have you been pleased with how winter testing has gone?
FA: Yes, I think we have done what we needed to. The car is ready to race: it has done a lot of laps, on all types of circuits and conditions. Now is the time to measure ourselves against the others in the first race. We have done the maximum possible, so I am relaxed going into the season.
Q: What has the change to V8 engines been like for you?
FA: In terms of driving, I haven't found any differences. I haven't changed my style at all to adapt, because I am still trying to drive right on the limit.
Q: And what is your opinion of the new Renault V8?
FA: I think the team at Viry has done a fantastic job. We started running on the track quite late with the V8, in mid-January, but we did it with an engine that was already capable of doing race distances. It was reliable, with good performance. There have been different philosophies about how to develop the V8, and Renault's has worked well.
Q: The tyre regulations have also changed for 2006. How have Michelin responded?
FA: Michelin has done a very good job developing the tyres for the new rules. I think they were under pressure when the rules changed, because people thought that they were not so competitive in 2004. But we are there. We have a super tyre now, it doesn't matter whether the temperatures are high or low. I think we have good performance, and good consistency. I am confident that the Michelin will still be the best tyre in Formula 1 this year.
Q: There will also be a new qualifying format to tackle in Bahrain. What are your thoughts about it?
FA: For the drivers, it will not change too much. I think the challenge is more for the teams and engineers, finding the right strategy and working very quickly. But last year, we had one opportunity for a quick lap; now, we have at least three occasions when we have to set a lap time. The drivers always have to do the maximum though, and there will be only one lap in each part of the session when the car is in perfect conditions. So it hasn't really altered very much for our job.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the challenges of the circuit in Bahrain?
FA: It is a unique circuit, because a lot of sand blows onto the surface from outside the circuit. This makes the feeling and driving style quite complex, because as you go into each corner, you don't know what the conditions are like or how much grip you have. The high temperatures also make life difficult for the engineers with the cooling of the car. I think there are still some unknowns for the first race.
Q: Are you ready to go racing again after a four month break?
FA: Personally, yes. After a whole winter off, I want to see the people in the grandstands, and feel the emotion of Formula 1 again. But also because Renault are the world champions, and the whole team is very motivated because of this.
Q: Going into the first race, is there more pressure on you because you are world champion?
FA: I don't think there is more pressure, but I am very proud to have number 1 on the car. It is the maximum you can achieve in all motorsport, one of the moments you dream about all of your career. I am excited to arrive in Bahrain with number 1 on the car, and I will be trying to enjoy this year to the maximum.
Q: Who will be the favourites for the opening race?
FA: I think Renault are definitely up there. Honda, Ferrari, McLaren and Renault have been the four big teams in winter testing, and now we must check in the opening races. For sure, Renault are the ones to beat because we are the world champions, and I am confident we have done a good job.
Q: Finally, do you think you can win the world championship again this year?
FA: Well, I want to! It is very difficult to win a championship, and you need a lot of things around you to have the chance. Last year, I started the season dreaming of maybe winning one race and getting regular podiums, but we won the title. In 2006, I know we have a competitive car in the R26, so my only goal is to repeat the title.
Q: Giancarlo, 2005 was your most successful season in Formula 1 so far. Can you explain your motivation for 2006?
Giancarlo Fisichella: My motivation is very high. I am very pleased to be with a great team like Renault, the world champions. Also, I know I am driving a very quick car this year. My target is to fight for the championship, and I am optimistic I can do that.
Q: What has been the impact of the regulation changes, on the driver's role?
GF: Obviously we have had some big changes: we have lost almost 200 bhp going from the V10 to the V8, which you feel straight away. The team has done a great job with the V8 engine, and it has good power and driveability. On the chassis side, we have made a big step, and with the Michelin tyres as well. You can see that because we are back to almost the same lap-times as we were doing with last year's car.
Q: What is the R26 like to drive, compared to its predecessor?
GF: It is very similar. Last year's car was very comfortable for the drivers, and so is the R26. In fact, I am even happier in this car. The rear is more stable under braking and in the middle of the corner. We have made a step forward on the traction too. That all means I can drive the car how I want to, and gives me even more confidence.
Q: Tell us a little about the venue for the opening race...
GF: Bahrain is one of the new generation circuits, with excellent facilities. I have liked it ever since I drove there for the first time. There are some challenging corners and you have to attack the braking zones, which I enjoy. I didn't have much luck there last year, but I believe we will be strong in 2006.
Q: The engineers say it is particularly demanding for the brakes?
GF: Yes, it is one of the worst circuits. The wear can be very high, especially in the race, so we need to be careful how we brake, and where, to make sure we don't have any problems -- while making sure we are not costing lap-time either.
Q: Which teams do you expect to see fighting for the win?
GF: The tests showed us that Honda are very strong, and McLaren have made a big step forward. We don't know about Ferrari because we haven't done much running with them, but Renault are definitely among the favourites.
Q: In 2005, you kicked off the season with a win. More of the same in 2006?
GF: Obviously, I hope so. But honestly, that's not the most important thing. In 2006, I want to win the rest of the season as well, and start scoring a lot of points. It didn't happen for me in 2005, but this year, I want to fight for the title.