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Home at last - Q&A with Renaults Fernando Alonso

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Tuesday at Jerez marked something of a homecoming for Fernando Alonso, as he returned to a Renault cockpit for the first time since he won the 2006 world title with the team. After the rollercoaster year that was his ‘07 season with McLaren, the Spaniard is back in familiar surroundings.
Of course, plenty has changed - a new team mate in Nelson Piquet Jr, a new car on the way, and the removal of driver aids. Fresh from his first day back at the office, Alonso considers the challenge that lies ahead…

Q: Happy New Year Fernando. What have you been up to since announcing that you will be driving with Renault in 2008?
Fernando Alonso: I spent Christmas relaxing with family and friends in Spain. For the rest of the time, I have been in Switzerland starting to work on my physical training. At this time of the year, we follow quite an intensive programme.

Q: What training have you been doing over the winter to prepare for the new season?
Fernando Alonso: During the winter, the important thing is to develop solid basic fitness so that you can always perform to your maximum. Of course, we continue lighter training between the races as well, but the work we do at the start of year is much more intensive. The main areas I work on are running, swimming and training in the gym.

Q: If you could have three wishes for 2008, what would they be and why?
Fernando Alonso: 1. Good health for everybody, and especially for those close to me, because I think this is the most important thing. 2. Happiness, because it is the second most important. 3. To have a good year in my job so that my hopes, and those of many others on my behalf, are achieved in 2008.

Q: 2007 was a controversial year in many ways, for Formula One and for you personally. What will be your approach to 2008?
Fernando Alonso: It will be the same as I have always had. At the start of any season, the only thing I want to do is work hard, and to give maximum effort to achieve my potential. I know I can do this successfully with ING Renault F1 Team, because we have managed it in the past. I want to give everything I can, and I know the team will do everything to win; this is always our approach to the sport.

Q: Today, you put on Renault overalls for the first time since winning the world championship in 2006. What were your feelings meeting up with the team again?
Fernando Alonso: There were a lot of good feelings, good memories and plenty of optimism. There are new colours for me, a new helmet that I designed for the new season… the only thing we are missing is the new car!

Q: What are your expectations and objectives for this first test with the R27?
Fernando Alonso: I haven't got any concrete goals for this test. On a personal level, it is an opportunity to get used to driving the car without electronic aids, so I am approaching these two days in the car simply as practice adapting to the change in rules.

Q: Do you see 2008 as the start of a new adventure with Renault - or is it like picking up an old story for another chapter?
Fernando Alonso: I think both things are true. The team is completely different to the one I left in 2006. There have been some big changes, they have improved a lot of things and strengthened many areas, so in one sense it is a new adventure with a new team. At the same time, it is impossible to forget the six years I spent as a Renault driver, and my memories of that time are still strong.

Q: A lot was written about your relationship with your team mate in 2007. What are your first impressions of working with Nelsinho and how do you think the relationship will be in 2008?
Fernando Alonso: I said last year that too many false things were written, but I understand that is what sells newspapers. I haven't really got to know Nelsinho yet, but he seems to me to be a normal, nice guy who wants to enjoy his time in Formula One: no different to Marques, Button, Trulli, Fisi, Montagny or McNish, all of whom were my team mates, all of whom I got on well with and who are still friends. For 2008, I don't anticipate problems with anybody, and Flavio (Briatore) has always demonstrated that he can manage these situations very well.

Q: What have you seen of the R28, and what are your expectations for the new car?
Fernando Alonso: I have seen some of the data for how we hope the R28 will perform but nothing more at this time. When you launch a new car, expectations are always high and you put a lot of hope and a year's work into the car. As always, though, you have to wait for the car to run for the first time.

Q: How did your first day go? What were your impressions of the car?
Fernando Alonso: I was a bit tentative to begin with because it has been a long time since I have driven an F1 car, but I could not wait to start working with the team. Of course, this was the first time that I have driven without traction control, but towards the end of my runs I started to gradually take a few more risks with the car. In all, the first day of work was very positive.

Q: What are your first feelings about driving the car without driver aids? What does it change for the drivers?
Fernando Alonso: The car is not radically different. It's about the driver finding his limits and adapting his driving style. That is what you are going to have to do at the beginning of the season, but I am convinced that after two or three races, we will have completely forgotten how it was to drive with driver aids. With the new regulations, we will work in the same way and I believe it will be down to the driver to adapt accordingly.


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