After his dramatic early exit in Malaysia, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso fought back with a convincing win in China last weekend, and now lies third in the standings, nine points shy of leader Sebastian Vettel. So what has the former champion made of 2013’s opening rounds, are what are his and the Scuderia’s prospects for the Bahrain weekend and beyond? Alonso discussed these and other issues – including his friendship with Mark Webber – with the media in Sakhir on Thursday…
Q: After three races, would you have predicted the current championship standings?
Fernando Alonso: The first races are usually the ones where one can see the potential of the different teams, and where you have to learn how to deal with the new rules and regulations. This year it is very much the learning curve on how to deal with the tyres that we are all currently occupied with. In general I don’t think that the championship standings are very important yet, but they are also not a big surprise at the same time, as for example Lewis (Hamilton) is one of the best drivers on the grid, and he had put McLaren into a very competitive position last year, and is doing the same with Mercedes this year. So once more he has proved his talent. Also we all know that the Red Bulls are very strong and we will count with them again, and also Kimi (Raikkonen) had a fantastic start of the season – he is driving better than anyone else at the moment and also he clearly deserves to be there.
Q: How satisfied are you personally with the win at the last race, and how satisfying was it to not see your main competitor of recent years with you on the podium?
FA: Of course I was very happy, as not winning for some time is clearly a difficult matter for oneself and the team. It has been for sure 11 or 12 races that we haven’t properly won the race, although we have managed to be on the podium constantly. But also there have been a lot of other very good drivers with a competitive car that have not won either for 15 or 16 races. But what we have understood is that it is not only important to win a race, but to be consistently on the podium. Not to have had Sebastian (Vettel) on the podium is for sure good news at this stage of the championship, as he is leading it, but it would be the same with Lewis or Mark (Webber) if they were in the lead.
Q: Do you have the feeling that yours is the car to beat at the moment under race conditions?
FA: I don’t really think so, as I do not see the advantage that others see after one victory. In Australia we were obviously not the quickest, and in Malaysia we were even struggling a little bit, and Felipe (Massa) was only fifth, so he was not dominating the race. Also in China, if you look at the race pace I think Sebastian was the quickest. Maybe Red Bull has chosen a wrong qualifying strategy and therefore they compromised their race. For us it is clear that we need to keep improving, and be a little faster. We hope to achieve this with introducing new components here, in Barcelona and Monaco. So I hope that during the next few weeks we can close up to the level of the best cars.
Q: Do you see any effect on the Red Bull team because of the internal situation their drivers have?
FA: To be honest I don’t think that there is much effect, as once you arrive at the track you separate from your team mate and have your meetings with your own group of engineers and mechanics, and you really focus on your own work. So both of them concentrate on their own schedule. I just think that Mark needs to regain his luck again, as China was just bad luck, and then he will be as strong as ever.
Q: You were seen having dinner with Mark Webber this week. Was there a special reason for this?
FA: Mark and I have known each other now for almost 13 years and we have a very good relationship, and not only because we have been working both with Flavio Briatore. So there doesn’t need to be a special reason to have dinner together, as it is quite normal that friends have dinner together. And Mark is feeling quite good and confident at the moment, knowing that he has got a very competitive car and that there are still many races to come in this season.