The ING Renault F1 Team today officially launched its 2008 season as it revealed the brand new Renault F1 R28 and its driver line-up at Renault’s communications headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt, on the banks of the Seine in south-west Paris. Fernando Alonso is happy to be back 'home' at Renault.
Interview with Fernando Alonso
What was your feeling when you began testing with the ING Renault F1 Team in January?
"I know the team, the working methods and how Renault goes racing. We got down to work straight away, and immediately felt comfortable with the engineers and mechanics. The welcome from the team was fantastic, and saw I lot of people I knew from when I was here before. I am happy to be back at Renault, and I think I will be more relaxed ahead of the new season."
What did you think of the R27 when you drove it, on your return?
"It is hard to say because I only drove for two days, and I was getting used to the car without driver aids at the same time; that made it hard to have a clear opinion. It didn’t take long to get comfortable with the car, and it responded well to the set-up changes we made. After not driving all winter, it was very useful for me to get my marks. We didn’t look at the car’s ultimate
You drove the new car last week in Valencia. Tell us about it…
"The first test of a new car is always very exciting. As always, our first job was to make sure everything was working properly, like the safety systems and all the on-board controls. We did a lot of calibration and measurement work. My first feeling with the car was good. I think we made some good steps during the first test, and collected interesting data. We did a lot of runs, getting longer all the time to test the reliability levels of the car. It was encouraging."
What is the development workload like at this time of year?
"There is always a lot to do at this time of year, but we are making good progress. The team is working incredibly hard, producing new parts at the factory, and at the track to make the most of our testing days. We aim to get the most out of every lap we do, and to carry on moving forward. The pre-season tests are extremely important and we are trying to exploit them to the maximum."
Do you think the new regulations will change things out on track?
"I don’t think it will make any difference at all, to be honest. The teams have been preparing for the changes for a long time, and we are in a good situation – although the workload has been enormous. The drivers are using the winter tests to adjust their reference points and to adapt their driving style, but they will all be ready by Melbourne. After two or three races, I think we will have forgotten what it was like with driver aids, and the cars will be performing well without them. On the other hand, I think the races will be more spectacular, which will be positive for F1 fans."
Which will be the team to beat this year?
"It is hard to make predictions at this time of the season. But if you take into account the level of competitiveness last year and what we have seen during the first tests of 2008, I think Ferrari could well be setting the pace from the start of the season."
How are you approaching the 2008 season?
"Some people have suggested that I have unfinished business from 2007, but that’s not the way I look at it. I am preparing for this season the same way I always have done: by concentrating on my job. Our work during the winter will dictate whether or not we are competitive at the start of the championship, and that is my focus. Once we start racing, I will try and get the maximum out of the car, and to work with the engineers to improve. That has always been my approach, and will continue to be."
You have a new team-mate in Nelson Piquet Jr. How is your relationship?
"I didn’t know him before re-joining the team. We have a good relationship because we have the same targets: to work with the team to get the most out of the car, to develop it and to help the team become competitive again."
What are your ambitions for this year?
"The entire team is absolutely determined to get back to the top, they are pushing very hard and that is a big motivation for me. First and foremost, I am a racer, and I obviously want to win. I will do my maximum to make that happen, and I know that is what is expected from me."