The ING Renault F1 Team reflects on the start of the season and looks ahead to this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. Fernando Alonso: "I believe in this team and we will fight back" Fernando, a pretty eventful Malaysian Grand Prix for...
The ING Renault F1 Team reflects on the start of the season and looks ahead to this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Fernando Alonso: "I believe in this team and we will fight back"
Fernando, a pretty eventful Malaysian Grand Prix for you. Tell us about your race...
I made an amazing start and was up to third from ninth after the first couple of corners, which showed the clear benefit of our KERS system. However, I was heavy with fuel and it was difficult to defend my position from the cars behind me. Then it started to rain and I went off the circuit before I could change to wet tyres. After that it was all about being on the right tyres at the right time, but it wasn't easy predicting how heavy the rain would be. It was definitely the right decision to stop the race as it would have been dangerous to try and continue in those conditions.
You've said the team needs to improve the car. Are you confident the team can do that?
Absolutely. I believe in this team and we saw last year that they know how to fight back and find performance from the car. It's still very early days and everyone in the team is working hard to develop the R29 so that we can be more competitive in the next few races. I was disappointed not to score points in Malaysia as my aim is to score points at every race this season. Obviously it's difficult to change the car until we get back to Europe, but we have learnt a lot from the first two races and we certainly made progress in Malaysia. We need to take another step forward in Shanghai and hopefully score points.
Are you looking forward to racing in Shanghai and what are your thoughts on the track?
It's definitely a circuit that I enjoy and it's quite similar to Sepang with some quick corners, long straights and low-speed sections. You therefore have to find a compromise with the set-up to make sure you have enough downforce for the high-speed sections, but also good straight-line speed. I won the race there in 2005 when Renault also won the constructors' championship so it's a track with good memories for the team. I also enjoy being in China and the fans are really enthusiastic about Formula 1.
Nelson Piquet: "I'm sure we will get stronger throughout the season"
Nelson, it was a chaotic race in Malaysia -- sum up your race for us?
I had a good start and made up four positions, so things were looking quite good during the first stint, especially as I had a lot of fuel in the car. The car had a good balance in the dry, but then it rained and we had to pit early. The wet conditions were really bad and it was almost impossible to drive the car because of the poor visibility and aquaplaning. It was difficult to call the right strategy and the team did a good job, but races like that are always a lottery. It's a shame we couldn't restart the race, but the conditions were the worst I can remember at a Grand Prix.
After two races what is the mood like in the team?
The team is very motivated and determined to do a good job in China. We improved the car between Australia and Malaysia and we need to continue in this direction to try and get more from our package in China. I know the guys back at the factory are working really hard to prepare upgrades for later in the year and I'm sure we will continue to get stronger and stronger throughout the season.
You finished in the points in China last year as a rookie -- what are your targets for this year's race?
After two races we've seen how close all the teams are, but I will still aim for the points this weekend. I need to make sure I improve my performance in qualifying so that I can reach Q2 or Q3 and have a good strategy for the race. We also need to see how the different tyres perform because Shanghai is quite a tough circuit for the tyres and we will need to do a lot of evaluation on Friday to make sure we are well prepared for the race.
Bob Bell: "The whole team is extremely motivated and working very hard to improve the car."
Bob, what was your verdict on the team's weekend in Malaysia?
It was clearly below par. We weren't running any new parts so it was basically the same car we had run in Melbourne and we saw a similar level of competitiveness. However, during winter testing we have seen a higher level of performance from the car and so we know there is more to come. It's just at the moment we're not extracting that performance from the car. I suspect there is something quite subtle and sensitive that we need to put right, but it's a case of understanding what that is and resolving the issue. There are definitely some changes we will make to the car for China to try and restore our performance to where we want to be, but it won't take us to the front of the field just yet.
Are you satisfied with the performance benefits of running KERS and will the team use it in China?
We haven't changed our fundamental view that our default position should be to run with KERS as opposed to without it. There are certainly circuits where running KERS is a distinct advantage and Malaysia was probably the first of those, although as the year unfolds there will be circuits where it may be debatable whether running KERS is an advantage or not. So we need to evaluate its merits on a race-by-race basis, but China is definitely a track where we should see a benefit. Overall the system is working well and it gives us the advantages we hoped for, such as making overtaking or defending a position easier, as well as clear benefits at the start of the race.
Tell us about the Shanghai International Circuit and the challenges it presents?
It's a modern circuit that's quite smooth with a mix of high and low-speed sections: long straights, tight chicanes and fast, sweeping corners. Any circuit like that presents a challenge for the engineers to find a set-up that works well across a wide range of corners and speeds. It's not a particularly demanding circuit on the brakes, but it can be quite hard on the tyres, especially the first corner with its constantly tightening radius. In terms of aero levels, we will run a fairly standard package, but the priority is to find a good balance between a low and high-speed set-up.
What is the team's mindset after two races?
The whole team is extremely motivated and working very hard to improve the car. We have some interesting projects going on back at the factory that will add performance to the car, both in the aero and mechanical domains. Everybody is very positive and up for the fight.