The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for the penultimate round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship: the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. Fernando Alonso: "Simply unbelievable!" Fernando, two wins in two races. How does that feel? I am ...
The ING Renault F1 Team prepares for the penultimate round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship: the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Fernando Alonso: "Simply unbelievable!"
Fernando, two wins in two races. How does that feel?
I am gradually realising what we have achieved because a few weeks ago winning a Grand Prix seemed totally out of the question. In Singapore, we were very disappointed with our qualifying, but in the race we had some luck and won the race. In Fuji, it was a completely different story. We totally deserved this victory; we were quick and our strategy played out perfectly. It's simply unbelievable and I am extremely happy. The team has done an amazing job these last few weeks to get to this level of performance and we are now clearly the third fastest team.
After Japan last week we remain in Asia for the Chinese Grand Prix. Is it a race that you enjoy?
Formula 1 is still a relatively new sport in China but the fans are very enthusiastic and very welcoming, just as they are in Japan. It's a real change of surroundings and the infrastructure here is enormous. I can't wait to get back in the car this weekend as it's an interesting place to drive a Formula 1 car.
What do you think of the circuit?
I think the circuit provides several interesting challenges for both the drivers and the engineers. It's made up of long straights, high-speed corners, but also some slow corners. So again it will be a case of compromising with the set-up to find the right balance with a car that is stable in the corners with plenty of downforce and which still has enough straight-line speed to be able to defend or overtake on the straights. That is what we will concentrate on during Friday practice.
With two consecutive victories, do you think you will be able to win again this weekend in Shanghai?
It's difficult to say. I would tend to say no, but then again I want to say yes! We saw in Fuji that our level of performance was reasonable compared to Ferrari and McLaren, so you have to feel that once again anything is possible this weekend -- a podium or a victory. The whole team is very motivated after our two wins in Singapore and Fuji and we will do everything possible to have another strong race.
Nelson Piquet: "A great result that I hope to repeat soon!"
Nelson, you had a great fight through the field in Fuji to finish the race in fourth place. Were you happy with your race?
Yes, absolutely. I am happy with my performance as I didn't make any mistakes, I was quick and consistent, and the car was handling really well...everything was going perfectly. I'm also happy to see that we are now fighting at the front. The team has worked very hard and that has really started to pay off and I just hope that things will continue like this until the end of the season and that we can aim for some more big points in the final two races.
We're now heading into the Chinese Grand Prix -- another new track for you. How are you approaching it?
I am confident and looking forward to driving there. The circuit seems impressive and if we can get the car working as well as it did in Fuji then we have a good chance of a strong weekend. For me it's important to learn the circuit quickly on Friday so that I can make the most of the three hours of track time available to me. It's quite a typical circuit so I'm not especially worried about it and I've already done some good preparation with my engineers based on the information and data from previous years.
What do you need in terms of set-up at Shanghai?
Once again I think that we need to concentrate on getting a well balanced car that has good change of direction and that is stable under braking so that I can feel confident and able to attack the circuit. From the start of the weekend in Fuji I felt comfortable in the car and I hope that will be the case again this weekend in Shanghai.
After your fourth place in Fuji, what objective have you set yourself for the Chinese Grand Prix?
I think that we are hoping to build on the progress we have made recently and to have a strong race in China. I know that to have a good race I must improve my performance in qualifying to be able to reach Q3 so that I can aim for big things in normal race conditions. So I will start with this objective and we will then see what happens in the race, but I'm determined to score points as I know how important that is for the team's fight for fourth place in the championship.
Bob Bell: "The result in Fuji is a testament to the efforts of the whole team"
Bob, back-to-back Grand Prix victories for Fernando and the team -- tell us about your emotions after the past couple of races?
I think it's a feeling of immense pleasure and satisfaction for a job well done thanks to the efforts of the whole team at the track and in the factories of Enstone and Viry. Everybody has made a direct contribution to these results and it's a fantastic reward for the whole team so I'm elated by it.
Unlike Singapore, the win at Fuji had nothing to do with luck. Does that make it even more special?
I think it does to some extent because people would have always looked back at the Singapore result and probably focussed on the 'luck' element of it. The result in Fuji has put that to bed and demonstrated that the car clearly has the performance and the drivers have the ability to exploit that performance and bring home race wins. So it's a very satisfying result that was achieved on merit, which at this stage of the season is a fantastic performance.
Fernando was outstanding all weekend in Fuji, especially during his second stint. What was your verdict on his race?
I think it was very much a case of Fernando being totally in control of the situation. He had a good car, he was completely dialled into the circuit, and he was able to deliver good consistent lap times to build his lead. He's also a very intelligent driver, certainly one of the most intelligent that I've come across, and he's very good at reading the race and understanding what needs to be done to get an end result. I think his performance in Fuji was a fine example of that.
Nelson also delivered a strong drive to confirm the performance of the R28...
Nelson did a good job all weekend. He had a little trouble in Q2 with a couple of mistakes, but that was the only time during the weekend that he didn't deliver all that we could expect of him. He was quick from the start, both in the wet and the dry, and drove a strong race to bring the car home in front of the sole Toyota in fourth place, which is a great achievement.
Do you feel the wins in Singapore and Fuji have vindicated the decision to continue the development of the R28 late into the season?
Yes, I think it has. We could easily have taken the decision to give up on this season and concentrate entirely on next year. But we took a different decision as we felt actions spoke louder than words, and while many teams made brave promises about delivering performance next year, we were determined to get results this year. You need results to keep up your self-belief and motivation, to keep the support of your partners, and to secure the right drivers. So from the team's point of view it was very important to prove to ourselves and everybody around us that we were capable of coming back and being serious contenders.
How difficult has it been balancing the development of the 2008 and 2009 cars?
It's important to understand that we haven't lessened our effort on the 2009 project. Both our facilities in Enstone and Viry are working absolutely 120% on next year's car and we've simply squeezed more out of the system to meet the demands of the season. That means people have worked longer hours and put greater effort in to maintain the development of the R28 without compromising next year's car. Once again the people involved have risen to the challenge and allowed us to do this, which is a really strong testament to the whole team.
You wanted to end the season in fourth place with the third quickest car. Do you feel it's now a case of mission accomplished?
I never think like that. It's not mission accomplished until the chequered flag falls in Brazil and we will continue to push and assume that we can still be overhauled. In Formula 1 you should never rest on your laurels and we will keep that in mind when we determine our strategies and approach to the final couple of races.
Looking ahead to Shanghai, how will the team approach this weekend's race?
We won't approach the race particularly differently, although I think we now have the self-confidence and belief that we can finish on the podium and challenge for the win. That means that we might take a more aggressive attitude than we might otherwise have done, but we will remain mindful of the need to maintain our points advantage over Toyota.
Tell us about the technical demands of Shanghai?
For a modern circuit it's not a great technical challenge as it's fairly average in terms of most characteristics being a medium-speed and medium downforce circuit. It's not a great track for overtaking opportunities, but it does have some exciting corners such as the long right-hander of turn 13 which leads on to the long back straight. It's a track where we have done well in the past and I'm sure we can deliver another strong performance this weekend.