Alonso hopeful Ferrari upgrades will help
Fernando Alonso has already driven a Formula 1 car here in Singapore today, but it’s all within the rules because he was at the wheel of a Ferrari in a simulator, as part of a promotion run here by the team’s longest serving technical partner Shell. In fact, Scuderia Ferrari is involved in various activities alongside the oil company as the two marques celebrate competing together in 500 Grands Prix this weekend.
At his regular press meeting, held in a gazebo round the back of the team office, Fernando began by giving his views on this unique race on the calendar. “I have always had a competitive car here, except in 2009, even if we still managed to finish on the podium that year,” said the Spaniard. “It is a challenging track, with no room for mistakes, which means that, in this respect, it is like Monaco. You have to take risks, you have to find your limits, but without making any error. At other circuits, if maybe you run wide on the grass on one corner in free practice, you just lose the lap, but here you lose the whole session. It is challenging physically because it is a long race held in hot and humid conditions and it is also challenging mentally, because of the stress of not making any mistakes over the whole weekend.”
Third place in Monza two weeks ago was enough to keep the Ferrari man at the top of the Driver classification and he singled out the Italian GP winner as his main rival right now. “There are many teams that are strong and are still contenders, with maybe five or six drivers that can fight for the title,” he commented. “Lewis (Hamilton) is second at the moment and since February, we have said that he is the one that probably I respect the most, because we know what he can do in good cars or bad cars. In terms of strategy, it is almost impossible to cover five drivers, as they can make pit stops at different times, so in this race, we need to cover whichever driver is closest in the classification, which means Lewis at the moment. McLaren has won the last two races and so they are the favorites here as well. Hopefully we can stop their dominance: we have brought some new parts for the car and are optimistic that we can do well here and at the next two or three Grands Prix. We need to see how we perform on Friday, but our aim is to fight for pole and the win in this race. We were competitive in Monaco and Canada, which are similar circuits and so we are optimistic. We know how important is pole position here.”
As rumors continue about who will partner Alonso at the Scuderia next year, Fernando made it clear he has plenty of admiration for his current team-mate. “Anyone who comes to drive here must be a driver that respects Ferrari and the tradition of this team and the fact that here, we work for the team, for the red cars as our first priority,” maintained the Spaniard. “I have been working with Felipe for three years now and we have a very good relationship and if the team decides to appoint someone different for next year, then that driver has to be better than Felipe. Looking at all the names that you the media have been putting forward as a replacement, I’m not sure if you realize quite how much Felipe has achieved in Formula 1, compared to the names mentioned.”
On the subject of drivers, it’s well known that Robert Kubica, who recently had a winning return to motorsport in a rally car, after his terrible accident, is a close friend of Alonso’s, who was asked if he felt the Pole could return to F1. “I have known Robert since he was 12 years old and he is a nice guy and a very talented driver. It was good that he has been able to drive in a rally, but if he wants to be back in Formula 1, he can’t just leave hospital and start. You need practice and you need to “wake-up” your driving skills and start a training routine physically and also mentally, as you need to become again a professional driver in your head. Driving in that rally was part of this process.”
Finally, Alonso was reminded that his third place in Monza means he has equaled one of Ayrton Senna’s records. “80 podiums are a reason to be proud and these numbers will matter when I retire,” he affirmed. “Equaling one of Senna’s records is a big thing, because I was always following his races and I had a poster of him in my room, so thinking I could one day equal one of his records is something I would never have believed back then. Hopefully, I can go on to equal more of Senna’s records, like the number of championships for example.”