As the teams get ready to kick off the Canadian GP weekend, Fernando Alonso faced the press to talk about the circuit and his prospects for the race. Surprisingly, he downplays tyre management as not the most important thing, contrary to many of his competitors.
When asked what Ferrari needs to do to maintain the lead in the championship, the Spaniard's answer was surprisingly simple and straightforward: “We need to improve the pure pace of the car. On Sundays we are normally a little bit more competitive, taking advantage of all the experience in the team and the talent of the people in terms of how they prepare the car, how we manage the starts and the strategies we select. But we know we are not fast enough, especially on Saturday when everyone is in the same condition, namely on low fuel and new tyres. We struggle to get into Q3 sometimes and we are not anywhere close to pole position. The fact we are leading the championship is something we cannot maintain if we are not quick enough, if we are not the fastest. Hopefully, here in Canada we will see another step forward from the team to put us once again close to the top guys. But we won’t know if we have succeeded until the end of qualifying.”
The Gilles Villeneuve circuit has only delivered one win for Alonso, but he claims to like it all the same. “I enjoy driving here. It is a special circuit, which cannot be compared to any others on the calendar. It has a lot of corners which require good traction and there are long straights that also require heavy braking. The surface is low grip and the walls are very close which means there is no room for mistakes, making it a challenging track. Historically, I have had some ups and downs here, so I really want to do well this year. In nine races here in Montreal, I have retired in five of them, which is not a normal retirement rate for me. Hopefully we can change those numbers this year.”
If the outside world is amazed to find a Ferrari driver heading the Drivers’ classification, that amazement is shared by the man himself. “I am surprised, coming off the back of completely different 2011 season where one car dominated and when Sebastian, at this point was something like a hundred points in front of everyone,” said Fernando. “This year is very different, which must be a surprise for everybody, the way it has changed from one year to the next. I have enjoyed the season so far, which has been unpredictable, but at the same time, the top teams are leading the championships, so even if some of the middle-order teams are doing well and creating some surprises, in the end, consistency and experience is getting the points on Sunday. Sooner or later, I think the situation will stabilise and be much more normal than now. In order to win the championship, you need to be consistent with this situation of having six winners from six races, but if, in July, when we have four races, one guy wins two of them, then you will need something more than consistency to win the title.”
Tyres have been credited or blamed depending on one’s point of view, with the unusual podiums and general results so far, but it’s not a view shared by the Ferrari man. “I don’t think tyres have too much importance and in fact it’s a similar situation to last year,” he maintained. “I don’t agree with the view that the one who does the best job of managing the tyres always wins. In Australia, Jenson won because he was quickest in free practice, qualifying and the race, in Malaysia, we won the race in the rain, in China, Rosberg dominated all weekend and in Monaco, the winner started from pole. So I don’t think it’s all down to tyres, even if they have a short life and there is a point where they suddenly lose grip: it’s not a progressive degradation. It’s a bit strange but it’s the same for everybody.”