The ING Renault F1 Team moves on to Sepang in Malaysia for the second round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship. Fernando Alonso: "I always tend to attack a little bit more in Malaysia" Q: Fernando, you had a remarkable race in...
The ING Renault F1 Team moves on to Sepang in Malaysia for the second round of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship.
"I always tend to attack a little bit more in Malaysia"
Q: Fernando, you had a remarkable race in Australia, fighting your way to fourth place. You must be happy with the start to your season?
FA: Yes, the result is very important for the team and it gives us confidence and extra motivation to continue working hard. We know that we made the most of unusual circumstances, but we still had to be in a position to do that. However, this is only the first race and we must still make progress to get on terms with the pace of the other teams. There is work to do, but the result in Melbourne gives us all the belief that we can get there.
Q: You are now ready for the Malaysian Grand Prix, a race where you have always been successful. You must be looking forward to it?
FA: I certainly am. Sepang really is my favourite track. I took my first pole position there in 2003 with Renault, and I have won this race twice. It's a circuit that I enjoy and I always tend to attack a little bit more. I hope that this year I will be able to do well and I'm really looking forward to the race.
Q: Malaysia is renowned for being a difficult Grand Prix for man and machine. Is that a concern for you?
FA: No, not really. We have already experienced amazing temperatures last week in Australia and so we should not have any particular problems with the heat. In terms of the physical demands, I trained a lot over the winter and so I feel fit and ready, so there should not be a problem.
Q: After Australia, what areas do you think you need to concentrate on during preparation for the next race?
FA: I think that we must certainly improve our performance level on a single lap in qualifying so that we can be in a better position on the grid to make things easier in the race. Then it is important to have good consistency so that we don't lose ground and can start to move forward. This is what we must keep in mind during the practice sessions on Friday in Sepang.
"Each race will be the opportunity for me to learn and progress"
Q: Nelson, your F1 debut did not unfold as you would have liked. What have you learnt from the first race?
NP: Yes, that is not how I had imagined my first Grand Prix would unfold, but I knew that it would not be easy and I was prepared for it. I did little running during Friday practice and that complicated things for the rest of the weekend. However, I learned a lot and I now know what a Grand Prix weekend is like; it passes very quickly and you need to be able to get comfortable straight away. I am now looking forward to the next race in Malaysia, so that I can put into practice all that I have learnt from my first race.
Q: The second race takes place at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia, a circuit that you already know.
NP: Yes, I drove at Sepang in 2005 in A1GP so I therefore know the circuit and I have experienced the extremely high temperatures which we expect in this part of the world. So I think that things will be a little easier this weekend. I will be able to find my feet more quickly and to concentrate on the set-up of my car with the engineers. I hope to be able to push hard and avoid reliving a Grand Prix like I had in Melbourne.
Q: After Australia, what are your expectations for this next race?
NP: I hope that I can make more progress. In Melbourne I did little running in practice, my qualifying was disappointing and at the start of the race my car was damaged and I had to retire; it was therefore difficult to make much progress at all. I hope to be in a position in Malaysia to have a strong qualifying session so that I can have a good race and continue my apprenticeship. Each race will be the opportunity for me to learn and progress.
Q: Do you think that the R28 will suit the layout of the Sepang circuit?
NP: We will work hard to make that the case! This is an exciting circuit for F1 cars and interesting for the drivers. There are two long straights, some big braking areas into some slow corners, and some fast exciting turns. I will work with my engineers to try and have a well balanced car as early as the first practice session so that we can try different solutions and hopefully make good progress throughout the weekend.
Pat Symonds: "Another two races until we will know our true position"
Q: Pat, the team had a mixed weekend in Melbourne with a disappointing performance in qualifying and points in the race. What is the feeling in the team as we approach the Malaysian Grand Prix?
PS: It's always nice to get the first one under your belt and to see how things stand. So often after the first race in Melbourne we are still asking ourselves questions, and I think that's the case again this year. There have been teams that have not been able to show their full potential, such as Ferrari, and we also had a slightly frustrating weekend but a good result at the end of it. Luck comes and goes and Fernando was quite unlucky with the safety car, but obviously towards the end of the race we picked up some luck. I think fourth place is a result that the whole team is quite happy with, but we're looking forward to getting onto a more classic type of circuit in Malaysia next weekend.
Q: Nelson endured a difficult debut. Do you expect his situation to improve in Malaysia?
PS: I'm sure it will. Melbourne is a very difficult track for the drivers and it's not a great place to start your career because it is such a tough race, just as we saw with Heikki last year. Nelson had a difficult job to do and I'm sorry that the team let him down because we wanted to give him maximum mileage on Friday and Saturday which we did not do, and then the car failed in the race. We are all very sorry about that, but we don't look back, we look forward, and we go to Malaysia where Nelson did a day of testing last year, so he knows the track. It's a question of starting again, regrouping and seeing how it goes.
Q: We saw a chaotic race in Melbourne with lots of retirements. Why do you think this was the case and was it a result of the new electronic regulations?
PS: I think it was a result of various factors. Melbourne does tend to generate a lot of incidents and accidents, partly because it is a difficult, slippery track with bumpy braking areas. I also think the fact that it was the first day of term played its part as this was the first time the drivers were really pushing to the limit. It's interesting to think about what the new electronics have done because we said it would not really make a great deal of difference, although it may produce a few more mistakes. I think that is certainly what we have seen, but certainly the new electronics have not aided overtaking, and I think the difficulty of underbraking without having the sophisticated engine braking systems has perhaps made it a little bit more difficult to overtake, which is a shame.
Q: So, is it still too early to gauge Renault's position relative to the competition?
PS: Absolutely, I don't think we can do that at the moment as we haven't had a clean race. We've had a race that has been interrupted by safety car periods and with people having abnormal problems. I never like to make predictions based on a sample of one and I think that it is the wrong thing to do. We usually find that after three races you start to get a picture of where you stand. I think that after Malaysia we will know a great deal more and after Bahrain we will have an even clearer picture
Q: Sepang is a circuit where Renault has enjoyed great success in the past. Can you tell us about the challenges of the circuit?
PS: It's an interesting technical challenge with fast sweeping turns, especially through Turns 4 to 8, where you need good balance. Good traction is also important, especially on the exit of Turn 9, a tight left hander. The opening complex of Turns 1 and 2 is also a difficult challenge for the drivers, but I think my favourite part of the track is Turn 14; a real drivers' corner with a tightening entry where you approach on the brakes. We will also have the high temperatures, which we have already seen in Melbourne, but Sepang will be much harder on the tyres, so we will be using the hardest tyres available. Our soft tyre in Sepang will be the hard tyre we used in Melbourne. It's a fairly old track surface now so it tends to put a lot of energy through the tyres, so we will need to pay attention to rear degradation.