McLaren Honda driver Fernando Alonso took part in this afternoon’s official FIA press conference ahead of this weekend’s 17th round of the 2016 Formula One championship season here at the Suzuka circuit in Japan. This is Honda’s home track and the Spaniard will be using an upgraded engine for the race where he is hoping to make a very memorable impression….
Fernando, there’s been a lot of talk about your starts this year and the fact that in the last five GPs you’ve made up 29 places on the opening lap! Making up places is something you’ve consistently done – in circumstances you’ve had to do it of course – but can you explain a bit about your starts; is it experience, instinct or is it just pure risk taking?
I think it’s a little bit of everything probably. A little bit of luck as well. Sometimes you try to recover places and you try to choose a line into turn one – left or right – and you never know what if going to happen in front of you. It’s a little bit of luck also that you need. Over probably 16 years of Formula One, I recover many, many places so it cannot be only luck every single year. Yeah, probably doing a lot of Playstation and starting last – it’s good practice!
The results seem to be coming through now more consistently for McLaren-Honda, outside of the top three teams on a more consistent basis. Are you seeing the things you need to see at this stage from the team to give you confidence you can fight for podiums more regularly next season and what’s the plan for the new engine you ran in Sepang?
I think let’s say we are happy with the progress we made this year and definitely we are able to fight with some competitive teams there, like Force India, Williams, and now we finished now like four times seventh after the top three teams in the last five races. Definitely a step forward that we are enjoying, this process of starting to be competitive but I think looking for next year I don’t think we can see anything that is clearly positive or negative. Everything will change massively so we need to work and to be very focused on next year’s car in a way now that is only theoretical – simulators and wind tunnel numbers and dyno numbers etc. I don’t think the performance of the actual car is a reference for next year. So that’s one thing. Yeah, we want to be more competitive next year.
I think the biggest step has been done, from last year to this year, but we need another big step next year, which is going from the last Q3 spot and some points to fight for podiums and wins. I think it’s still possible. We have the potential, we have the facilities, we have the talented people. This project, as we have said many times, it’s a question of time that we will be able to win. Hopefully we are trying to make it as short as possible and let’s see. With the new engine, actually it’s just an engine that we fitted in Malaysia just for reliability issues more than performance. Also, we didn’t have engines to finish the season, so we chose Malaysia to fit new engines, to pay the penalty and then have the rest of the races without any more concerns. We plan to use that engine here but, as I said, the engine has exactly the same power, so we will fit the engine and we will try to do our best.
Fernando, what’s your opinion about Ferrari’s situation because when you leave all people say were wrong – what’s your opinion now?
Nothing really to comment. They are struggling a little bit now but it didn’t change probably the situation in the last couple of years but yeah, I wish always the best for Ferrari. I will have always Ferrari in my heart. So, hopefully they can improve. Thanks for asking. It’s been a long time that they didn’t ask me about Ferrari. Especially after they won Malaysia last year.
First of all, I was wondering what you think of Honda’s philosophy and of their engineering ability? And secondly, I was wondering if you could say how you find working with Honda compared with working with Renault and with Ferrari?
I found it very interesting from day one working with Honda, the philosophy and the approach they have to racing in general and I think to some extent to life. It’s interesting and I’m a big fan of Japanese culture and Japanese traditions and I think they translate that also into their racing philosophy. They’ve been following their programme, sometimes for us as sportsmen or fans. Sometimes it’s frustrating because we want everything now or everything tomorrow but that is not this magic solution in Formula One. Everything requires some time but yeah, they are doing the job, they are doing the maximum.
They are, as I said, they are following the times, everything made in Japan, only with Japanese people and it’s their mission, let’s say, so I’m extremely happy to feel part of this project from day one. Now that the results are coming, I also think they are a little bit more motivated and they are starting to be more creative, let’s say, in terms of design and progress. So, happy and compared to other big manufacturers, big car manufacturers, I think it’s just that. The way they work, the discipline, working and the loyalty also. All the engineers we have in our team, they’ve been working for Honda all their lives, from university. So the university they chose, one way to the other, they chose Honda and they will be with Honda for all their lives so that’s quite different to our culture and also I’m learning a lot.