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Archive for the ‘Alonso’ Category

There is a fantastic interview with Fernando Alonso in the Gazzetta dello Sport today, in which he gently moves closer to talking about Ferrari and his possible move there.

According to Pino Allievi, the number one writer on the paper, Alonso has moved to a house on the border between Switzerland and Italy, near Lugano. He spoke about the affection he has for Italy and Italians: “As a Spaniard I feel more at ease with Italians,” he said. “We have a lot of shared culture and character. We have identical feelings.”

There is a big following for Alonso here in Monaco

There is a big following for Alonso here in Monaco

As for Ferrari he started talking about the team, when asked how he imagined life would be inside the team. “It’s difficult to imagine from the outside. I can only say that when we race in Bahrain the circuit is full of Ferrari banners. You go to China and it’s the same. I see Ferrari as a symbol. At the moment I’m driving for Renault, where we are doing a great job. I only think about winning, the rest we’ll have to wait and see.”

The word I’m hearing is that these next few races are pretty important for Kimi Raikkonen. Although he has a contract for 2010, the suggestion is that he has certain criteria to meet and that an agreement, which is in place with Alonso for 2011, has a clause which could bring it forward to 2010. The next couple of months will be decisive.

One GP driver I spoke to recently said that in the briefings and at moments when the drivers are all together, Kimi seems like he doesn’t care any more. It’s as if he’s going through the motions. It’s a shame if this is true, as Raikkonen is one of the most exciting and most talented drivers in F1.

However the Italian media has started treating him with a little less respect, calling him “Forrest Gump” earlier this weekend and today’s Gazzetta piece looks to me like a preparing of the ground for Alonso and the future, in a very Italian sort of way.

Ferrari went for Raikkonen in 2006 rather than Alonso because Jean Todt, the boss at the time, had fallen out with Alonso over a test driving agreement in 2001, which Alonso went back on. Now Todt has gone and the feeling in Ferrari is quite different.

Alonso also shed a little more light on what happened at McLaren. Asked what question he would ask Ron Dennis if he had the chance he said,
“I would ask him, ‘Why didn’t you listen to me?’ “

And on relations with Lewis Hamilton he said: “I spoke to him when we were team mates, in Turkey. I said, ‘We are fighting for the world title, one against the other, we both want to win, but we also have to find a way to work together.’ It was a frank discussion, very open. In reality, he wasn’t the problem. The team was.”

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I caught up with Fernando Alonso this afternoon at his press briefing in the Renault motorhome. He’s one of the few drivers to do this session on the first day of practice.

I was interested to hear how good it felt to be back on the streets here, brushing the barriers, feeling that unique adrenalin rush of Monaco. His answer surprised me a little,

“Not feeling good because being close to the barriers is not something you enjoy too much it’s a bit stressful. It’s always nice to be at Monaco and you get a different feeling, but it’s very demanding in terms of concentration in terms of how precise you are with your lines etc, because a little mistake and you finish your session. On Thursday you need to do as many laps as possible, so from a driving point of view you need to start risking, improve some racing lines, but you need to allow some margin because you want to do as many laps as possible.”

Today went pretty well for the team. Alonso wound up 11th, but he set his fastest time on the eighth lap of a 12 lap run on used soft tyres, so his time is not particularly representative of his outright pace. He thinks that with a bit of luck, a clear track and a bold lap he might squeeze into a slot on the front three rows of the grid.

“Top five, top six will be the absolute maximum. Maybe a more normal result will be fighting for the last couple of points. It’s a good opportunity for us to fight against teams we cannot fight on normal circuits. We know that when we get to Turkey we will be between position eight and position ten, more or less. So here is a bit different. Maybe here the position changes, if you have a good lap in qualifying, if you are close to the barriers, everything goes perfectly on your lap then maybe you start fourth in the race and you can keep that position.”

Today was more about the drivers getting comfortable with the car and the track than anything else, doing as many laps as possible to get into the groove. The circuit changes a lot here over a weekend as the rubber goes down. But already we saw how fast these cars are with the slick tyres and improved mechanical grip compared with last season. the fastest time today was a 1m15.243, which is only a tenth slower than the fastest low fuel time in qualifying from last year. So I reckon we will see some very fast times on Saturday.

“The set up was good more or less straight away,” says Alonso. “We tried not to change too many things on the car because the circuit keeps changing on every run, improving and improving when you put some rubber down. It’s quite clear for everyone that supersoft tyre will be better for qualifying for the one lap performance and the soft tyre will be better for the race with better consistency.”

Alonso got the maximum out of the car in Spain, finishing fifth behind the Brawns and the Red Bulls. He’s punching well above the car’s weight this season, so keep an eye out for him on Saturday.

He finished by reiterating his comments from yesterday about not wanting to drive in F1 if the manufacturers pull out at the end of this season,
“If all the manufacturers retire from F1, it’s not any more F1. It’s not about technology, it’s not about improvement it’s not about the maximum category in motorsport. I won’t consider driving in a category that is not the maximum of technology.”

The teams meet tomorrow morning to discuss the situation with the budget cap and then they meet again at 4pm with Max Mosley. With a week until entries open for the 2010 championship it will be a time for cutting to the chase.

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Little snippet caught my eye today in the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

Flavio Briatore was on Italian radio, talking about the stories that Alonso has already signed for Ferrari for 2011 (with an option to drive in 2010 if Raikkonen has another poor season). If you want to learn more about this story, by the way, scroll down to a post I did on it at the very end of December.

I’m not sure which way he would prefer it, talking about his star driver once it’s been confirmed he’s going to the opposition (2006 season) or talking about him with just strong and persistent rumour that he’s going. I’ll ask him on Thursday in Geneva, if I get a chance…anyway here’s what he said.

“It’s like a soap opera,” Briatore said of the story, “One that they keep preparing but which never gets broadcast. I think that a driver should always want to drive for Ferrari and if he wins this year with Renault, I will be more relaxed seeing him at Ferrari. If it happens, it happens.”

It will happen.

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Superfit Alonso aims high

It’s been a busy couple of days in the F1 world, with three car launches and some more rhetoric in the escalating war of words between Bernie Ecclestone and the F1 teams association, FOTA.

Let’s start with Renault. Fernando Alonso says he can win the championship with this car, he’s ecstatic about the wind tunnel figures, which say that the car should be very fast once they get it running against the opposition on a dry track.

Alonso is once again in the strange position of starting a season at Renault, with a contract in his pocket to drive for another team in the future, as he was when he won the 2006 world title. Of course many people are still denying that a Ferrari deal is done, while Alonso himself is saying, craftily, that he has been asked this question now for five years (true) so nothing changes and he is focussed on the season ahead.

It would be churlish to dwell on what happens next year or 2011, when Renault have put in a great effort to build him a winning car. He seems pretty bullish about his chances this season and why not? Renault made up a lot of ground last season as they finally got to grips with the Bridgestone tyres and with the aerodynamic problems they had built in to the car by mistake. And with the FIA and the other teams allowing them to bring their engine up to everyone else’s level (a special dispensation) they have every chance to compete this season with Ferrari, McLaren and BMW. In Alonso they have a proven champion and just to show he’s really serious he’s lost 3 kilos over the winter. Every little counts, as they say, and with extra driver weight a handicap in a car already bloated with the weight of a KERS system, those three kilos could save him a tenth of a second.

He’s also worked hard on building up his shoulder muscles because he expects a more physical challenge from the grip level of the slick tyres.

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Formula 1 is setting itself up for a great on-track rivalry to match the classic Senna-Prost duel of the early 1990s.

My good friend and colleague Pino Allievi is writing in La Gazetta dello Sport in Italy that Fernando Alonso has a four year contract with Ferrari starting 2011, but with clauses which allow that contract to be brought forward one year to 2010. This will bring Alonso into a head-to-head duel with his nemesis, Lewis Hamilton, with blood red Ferraris and Silver Arrows the weapons of choice.

I have known Pino for almost 20 years and in that time I’m struggling to think of a single occasion on which he has wrongly called a move by Ferrari. He has excellent connections there, going back to Enzo Ferrari’s time.

So you can take it as read that this story is true. And it will really shake things up in F1.

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I note that at the recent Mercedes Stars and Cars bash in Stuttgart Lewis Hamilton alluded to a visit he received from his former team mate Fernando Alonso shortly after the race in Sao Paulo last week. The Spaniard came to offer him his congratulations on winning the world title and Hamilton says that Alonso even went so far as to hug him.

By chance I was walking down the paddock ten yards behind Alonso as he left the Renault garage area in the open part of the paddock, heading down towards the tight, narrow warren which houses the ‘midfield’ teams. There was something about his stride which suggested that he had a purpose in mind and sure enough, when he arrived outside the back of the McLaren garage, he met up with Mclaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa. The pair shook hands and went inside, where the scene Hamilton described took place.

It was obviously pre-arranged between the Spanish pair, but it was curious to know whether Alonso texted De La Rosa asking him to escort him in there, perhaps when Lewis was confirmed as being there and Ron Dennis was safely out of view – or whether the initiative came from Pedro. [ more ]

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