Renault endured an average race by their high standards in France at the weekend, with Alonso securing second place and Fisichella down in sixth. Now, Alonso talks to us about the race, with Renault's Head of Trackside Engine Operations telling us a little bit about the development of the V8 RS26 engine.
Q: How was the race Fernando?
Fernando Alonso: Long… and tiring!
Q: Things were close at the start…
FA: Yes, it was tight! I did everything I could to get past Massa at that moment, even with two wheels in the grass, but I didn’t manage to do it. So I had to rely on the strategy to work for me.
Q: It was a pretty surprising strategy: a short first stint, longer second one and even longer at the end…! Why?
FA: We had two options. When we realised the Ferraris were three-stopping, we knew it would be almost impossible to pass on track. So we took a different option and tried to get the most from the tyres’ consistency.
Q: How was the car handling?
FA: Well. We put a lot of fuel in the car at each stop and I was pushing from the start, so the tyres were quite old by the end of each stint, but the balance was good. We were two or three tenths too slow at the start of the weekend compared to Michael, and we knew it. Given where I started on the grid, it’s an excellent result to finish second.
Q: Were you surprised by how strong the Ferraris were?
FA: No. Indianapolis was a difficult race from a tyre point of view, and we were probably too cautious there. Here, we were close. Like at Imola and the Nürburgring, Ferrari took the win. But a few months ago, everybody expected Michael to start winning all the races – and we took four wins in a row. So maybe it will be our turn to be on top in Hockenheim.
Q: So you’re not too disappointed?
FA: I would have liked to win of course, but it wasn’t possible today. But I have only lost two points to Michael and we have 7 races to go. So we did a good job even so.
Q: Denis, arriving at the team's home race, 100 years after Renault won the first ever French Grand Prix, it seemed like the script had been written for a Renault win. How much of a disappointment was second place?
Denis Chevrier, Renault (Head of Trackside Engine Operations): We go to every race looking to win, so of course it's disappointing when you cannot. We felt we were very strongly placed after qualifying and that we would be able to make our consistency count in race conditions. But we are not over-dramatising things either: you have to finish second if you cannot win, and there is never a colossal difference between the two in terms of points. Strategically, it was an important second place.
A points-system that rewards consistency must be a real help – I think our view of the points system has turned around a little compared to earlier in the season! Back then, we were winning a lot of races but only edging away from Ferrari and Schumacher in the championships, and it was quite frustrating. But this weekend, with a performance deficit, it was certainly something that we benefited from, and we still have a very good gap in both championships.
Q: Ferrari have now won two races in a row – is this a definitive shift in the balance of power during this mid-season period?
DC: It is a close fight between the two teams, as it has been all year and will continue to be. There is no reason to panic – neither in terms of the championship situation, nor the technical status quo between the teams. Ferrari happen to have won two races in a row – but we dominated four in a row before that. There is no reason to think that the pendulum will not swing back in our favour in the coming weeks.
Q: What is the atmosphere like in the team at the moment?
DC: Excellent, as always. When you win, you cannot rest on your laurels celebrating it – it is quickly gone. The same is true when you lose, and our priority is to get on with our jobs and look to the next challenge. There is only one thing we can do: that's studying how we can make our car go even faster.
Q: Will there be a secret to regaining the upper hand?
DC: The next race we win will be down to only one thing: applying ourselves to the job in hand, which means gaining tenths of a second here, tenths there, and getting those improvements on the car as quickly as possible. Win or lose, it changes nothing in our approach: we have to carry on improving in order to take the fight to our rivals.
Q: Finally, the team has already said that the RS26-C will benefit from even more performance in Hockenheim. What's the plan?
DC: The C specification engine was introduced as a new family of engines, which gave us a baseline for then developing the V8 even further. Fernando will have a one-race old unit in Hockenheim, Giancarlo a brand new one, but both drivers will benefit from performance upgrades for the next race. The engine is intrinsically capable of achieving greater performance, and by changing both the tuning and the way we run the engine, we will be able to unlock more of it from the next race onwards.
Source: Mild Seven Renault F1 Team