Alonso unplugged and answering questions from his fans

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari with the fans. Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday 21 June 2012.

Fernando Alonso with fans in Valencia

Jul.1 (Ferrari) There’s a lot of enthusiasm for Fernando Alonso’s social networking and his relationship with the fans is growing day by day as now the Spanish champion has almost 800,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook. He has embraced these now accepted – at least until something new comes along – forms of communication. Here is another batch of answers to questions with his followers from around the world.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari fans. Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday 8 June 2012.Alonso wrote to his fans: “Three months have passed since the start of the championship, which is one I first went on Twitter and Facebook and since then, this is the third interview, one per month. I have received over 12,700 questions for this one! There have been over 20 thousand since March and they continue to be interesting, amusing and original questions. There are almost 800 thousand of you following me! You’re giving me a lot of work eh? 12,700 questions in just a few days… it’s a lot to deal with! But it’s worth it and you are all worth it!”

“There are all types of question from what is the best and the worst thing about Twitter, or my feelings going through Eau Rouge (it’s like being on the point of being squeezed!) jumping on the podium, driving a Formula 1 car (no, there’s no time to enjoy it…,) my heartbeat during a race, what about the fuel, what influence does tyre degradation have, or what face my mother pulled when she saw how many friends I had thanks to #amigasALO or when she saw my little tattoo!”

“A lot of you are keen to know what I do on a normal day, such as drinking coffee with a gentleman in the lounge in seven in the morning while he takes a blood sample! Or if I have ever changed a wheel on a car. Now however, it’s my turn to ask you something curious: how long do you think it would take me to change an F1 wheel? All bets are accepted!”

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari in the Press Conference. Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday 21 June 2012.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari in the Press Conference.

“Many of you ask about the future, what I’d like to do when I stop racing, or if I will set up my own team. Why not? It would be a nice adventure! But if Bernie would allow it, I would like to design a real race track, like the kart circuit I designed at Oviedo which is due to open soon. I’ve already shown you some photos and in the next few days there will be more. See what you think.”

“It so happens that our third interview coincides with what was possibly my most special win in Formula 1. I said it last Sunday as I stepped off the podium: I felt overwhelmed and why would I not be? Almost everyone in the grandstands in Valencia was wearing red, with the flags of Spain, Asturias and Ferrari. The great joy at winning a Grand Prix in such a tough season came along with the added emotion of doing it in front of a Spanish crowd. Times are tough right now in Spain: many of you who where there to cheer me on and give me your supported have had to make big economic sacrifices.”

“Also in Italy, my second home, the last few weeks have been very hard. In the north, there have been two earthquakes in a very short space of time, which has really affected the team and that means all of us. When tragedies like this occur, there is an incredible sense of impotence. Apart from the funds raised in the auction, we wanted to do something, we wanted to dedicate a win to all these people. And then, when I saw all the happy faces, their joy, it was an incredible feeling. In me it provoked a mix of incredulity, pride and surprise. I would say it’s similar to the feeling I get when I jump on the settee and scream when Spain scores! To sum up, the victory in Valencia is for all of you!”

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari signs autographs. Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday 21 June 2012.“I feel your support every day! Sometimes I feel a bit lazy, but you soon reinvigorate me and I start to get ready for the next race. As you already know, in three months your numbers have grown to almost 800 thousand, which is really a surprise for me… thanks! Every time we launch a competition or ask a question, we set records, the servers struggle every time we load up some important information. What can I say? You are the best! See you next time!”

Questions from fans:

What’s it like living in Spain? Do you feel the love of the people? Does the press follow you around?
For me, living in Spain, in Oviedo means being at home. I have my family there, my childhood friends and the respect of my contemporaries.. I could not ask for more. Normally, no one follows me around, I think that because truth is, I don’t do anything interesting enough for them to follow me. In any case, when it comes to things to do with work, I talking about them on a daily basis on Twitter and Facebook. Then, for more specific things, I do a press conference every two weeks in three languages and then every weekend, I do one on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, , Valencia, Spain, Thursday 21 June 2012.What do you feel when you see people crying with happiness when you win? What does it feel like to make so many people happy?
I feel a mix of incredulity, pride and surprise. Seeing the emotion on their faces for what has just happened, their happiness, is an incredible feeling. Then to see they feel this for something you have done, makes you feel really proud. I know from experience that these moments don’t last long and this happiness evaporates the moment you leave the circuit. That in fact is why you have to enjoy it as much as possible.

When you are not happy with the set-up do you always ask for something specific to be changed or do you just describe what you feel to your engineers?
I describe what I feel when I drive the car in some corners, how it brakes, its grip, how it turns. Sometimes, I am reminded of what I felt in the past and the changes made so I can tell my engineer what we changed on the car the last time I felt the same things.

What does the hand gesture mean that you make on the cool down lap?
It started with a TV programme that I watched in Spain when I was little and the main character always made this sign Then I began to use it to say hello to my grandma and every time I headed for the airport to head off to a race, she would say, “remember to say hello to me if you win.” From then on, I always did it and I will continue to do so every time I win again.

Ferrari Belgian GP Fernando Alonso Andrea StellaHow often do you speak to your engineer during a race?
In normal conditions, he speaks with me twice per lap and I speak just once every two or three laps.. but it’s not often a normal situation. We try to agree over decisions for the race, which means we have to speak quite a lot.

More or less, what percentage of race decisions are made by the engineer and how many by the driver? Thanks Champ!
It’s 50-50. They have all the data, the numbers and a plan in mind. Every three or four laps we adjust the plan according to what the driver feels and how the car is behaving, as it can respond differently to what the numbers say…then we take decisions based on the new data.

What do the arrows mean on your helmet?
It’s something that came from a Christmas present I got as a kid. The driver in the toy I was given had arrows on his helmet. I put similar ones on my helmet when I was in karts and from then I have always kept them.

You’ll end up doing more interviews with normal people than with journalists. You will end up annoying them!
I don’think they’ll take it like that. Their job is to inform people abou everything going around us and I think now they have more information than before, which means they can do a better job. Many journalists have come and thanked me for having a Twitter account and often many of them retweet me.

Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director helps race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari get through the media scrum to the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Valencia, Spain, Sunday 24 June 2012.You are interviewed by journalists from many different countries. Do you see any differences? Which ones treat you best?
Yes, sure there are many differences between journalists from various countries. The interviews require great concentration from the journalists and myself and in many cases, we are both speaking in a language that is not our own. Depending where they come from, they ask me to talk about various drivers or circuits, food or cities. I think that, each one of them, before asking me a question has an objective in mind, a piece of news they want confirmed or something special they want to find out.

Given the support you get from Santander Bank do you knot consider yourself to be some sort of pay driver?
I am very proud of the support I have received from all the sponsors that have been with me over the past years. This is a sport requiring very big budgets and drivers are required to do much more than simply be quick behind the wheel. Over the years, I’ve taken part in over 30 TV advertising spots, done conferences, taken part in meetings with customers, workers and sponsors…nothing is for nothing in Formula 1 and the drivers represent the image of the team and its sponsors; the better the sponsors the better the team. Fortunately, with every passing year, the sponsors continue to be very interested in this sport and the teams that are part of it. Paying to drive is different to being paid to drive isn’t it?

At first, everything is very difficult. Would you have liked things to be easier when you first came into Formula 1?
Certainly. I’d have liked it to be like now. Twelve years ago, Formula 1 in Spain was not so well known and there were not many junior categories, few kart races and for someone from Asturias it was even harder. The best example is my great friend, Antonio Garcia, one of the best talents in Spain…but look, I managed it with a lot of luck, but he didn’t. He won everything outside Formula 1 and proved he was a great driver and if that had happened today, he would easily have been very successful in F1.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari stopped in the first practice session. Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Practice Day, Friday 28 October 2011.What is the thing that makes you most angry?

And what does your mother think of all these #amigasALO?
My mother finds it very entertaining…#amigasALO is great fun!

What did your mother say when she saw your tattoo? Did she like it?
I’m not sure. She saw me, gave me a half smile and got on with what she was doing. Mothers are like that…

What does it feel like, going flat out through Eau Rouge?
Your body gets compressed with a force that pushes down on you and it seems you are being squashed as soon as you begin to go up.

Do you have to pass any tests for alcohol or drugs or have a blood test before and after the race?
We have to follow the same procedure as cyclists for example. We have to tell the FIA where we are for all 365 days of the year so that we can take anti-doping tests. I have already done several: a few days ago for example, I found myself chatting with a gentleman in my lounge at seven in the morning, while I was undergoing an anti-doping test.

From 0 to 10, how similar is the Ferrari simulator to a real Formula 1 car?
I would say 9: it’s a professional simulator, developed by the team to replicate the characterisitics of the car, automating movements during laps on track and trying out possible modifications. It is not a game, it is part of work. To tell the truth it is one of the least enjoyable things to do, even if that does not seem the case.

19/0372011 LA MORGAL-ASTURIAS FERNANDO ALONSO EN LA INAGURACION DEL CIRCUITO DE KARTING QUE LLEVA SU NOMBREIf you could design a circuit, what would it be like? What famous corners would you include?
It would be exactly like the go-kart circuit I designed back home and which will be opened shortly…I hope. I’ll put a picture of it on Twitter soon.

Put in order of importance these five characteristics needed to get into F1. Courage, luck experience, intuition, reflexes.
1. Reflexes, 2.Intution, 3.Luck, 4.Courage, 5.Experience

In the distant future, would you like to run a team?

Now that you’ve been using social networks for a while, how do you evaluate the progress made? I appreciate it.
And I too really appreciate you. I really feel your support. My will to work is always at maximum every day and if sometimes I feel a bit lazy, you immediately pull me out of it and I start working again towards the next race. In just three months, there are already around 800,000 followers and everytime a race gets underway or we ask a question, we break every record, the server collapses each time we post important information. What can I say? You are simply the best!

Tell me somewhere you would like to go and something you want to do that you have not yet managed because you are famous?
There are a lot of things it’s not easy for me to do. They are not important, but there are times when I miss doing things like going to the beach, or a café, or eating an ice cream by the side of the road, going to see a game with other spectators, going to a concert, dancing and singing without working that someone is taking a photo or video of me. I know this is the price to pay but yes, I would like to again be able to do all these things.

US cyclist Lance Armstrong (L) and Spain's Alberto Contador of Astana Team train on the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife, on December 5, Whom have you always admired and whom do you admire now?
A lot of people, although the people I admired as a kid and still admire today are all cyclists, like Perico Dalgado, Indurain, Armstrong, Contador.

How do you feel being admired by people. Can the attention of the fans become oppressive sometimes?
No, it’s always nice and positive. The way people react to sport is exaggerated: total sadness if your team loses or vice versa, like when I jump off the settee and shout like a madman each time Spain scores a goal. I think many people react like this to Formula 1 and I think that’s great.

Do you know how to change the wheel on a car? How quickly could you do it?
I think I could change a wheel on a Formula 1 car in 10 to 12 seconds. Haha! Two years ago I had to change the wheel on a car and I didn’t know how to do it and it took me ten minutes.

What’s your favourite route on a bicycle?
In the north of Spain the temperature is the most suited to riding bikes, the sea, the mountains, the empty roads. I’ve never found anything else quite like it in all these years.

What would make you trust a woman who gets close to you to know what you are like as a man rather than a driver?
It’s almost impossible for me to trust them immediately. If I like her and she’s pretty it takes some time. When I meet someone I tend to put up a high barrier around me, not just since I’ve been a racing driver, but also when I was a kid at school. I am very shy!

Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Valencia, Spain, Sunday 24 June 2012.Where do you keep all your trophies? Will you show them to us in a photo one day?
One day they will be in a museum. Now they are in storage, well polished, waiting for its inauguration. I hope that day comes soon.

With all the travelling you do, you must know loads of places, but if you had to choose, what is your favourite place in the world?
Tokyo is my favourite city.

Can you tell us a good point and a bad point about yourself?
The good, punctuality. The bad, I’m cautious.

Do you not get bored having to justify your actions with the media and fans?
No, I don’t see it like that. The journalists are looking for professional information regarding the races. Through the papers and social networking, I try to tell the truth and express my feelings. When Sunday is over, I don’t feel I owe anyone anything. For me, it’s enough to be professional and prepare for the next race.

A song that motivates you or which you like listening to before the start of a race or the beginning of qualifying?
I don’t usually listen to music at these times, so I don’t know what to say. I like music, but I don’t use it to get motivated.

Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates with the team. Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Valencia, Spain, Sunday 24 June 2012.My son is seven and follows all your races. He wants to know what was your best race and how to become a racing driver.
I think the best was Valencia 2012. You have to start in karts and have fun. If you start to feel obliged to get good results then it won’t work. It’s a game: if it works, then it will come without forcing it thanks to his talent.

Is a racing driver born or do you become one?
You are born one, but you have to improve every day. It’s no use if you don’t work on it every day.

What factors affect tyre degradation? The current tyres drive me mad.
The car set-up, the driving style, the characteristics of the track, being behind another car, the pace. All these factors have an influence, because the tyres are the point of contact between car and track.

What is the purpose of the yellow/green paint that is put on the cars?
Once it has dried, you can see how the air has moved over the key surfaces of the car and that way you can check out the results you have gathered in the wind tunnel.

What do you feel when you are on the podium? Thanks.
Happiness! I would like to get down and share the moment with the rest of the team. You are up there and you see all your friends with the flags, their smiles and celebrations, but you have to follow the right protocol: you are happy, very happy, but also keen to go and celebrate with the team.

One day, we saw that Luthi’s heart rate during a Moto2 race reached 177. What does yours do?
It depends on the circuit. The highest is in Hungary where it reaches a maximum of 194 with an average of 177. The lowest is at Monza: maximum 158, average, 126. Other circuits are somewhere between these two.

You’ve now been on Twitter for a while. What are the best and worst things about it?
It’s hard to explain what has happened on Twitter in the three months I have used it. Suddenly I got fed up reading that I was in some place or other or do have done something somewhere. Now it’s down to me to decide where I am, when I arrived and when I left. I can say what I really want and how I get ready for a race or train on the simulator, I can tell all of you to let me know your questions and I can respond directly without anyone being really offended.
The worst thing? Definitely trying to say everything in just 140 characters… #èmoltodifficile ;-)

During the race, do you become one with the car? Do you shut out everything or do you think only of what you have to do? Do you have fun?
In a race, you don’t enjoy the driving. You need to think of everything you have to do with the maximum concentration. You must talk to your race engineer, change gear, adjust the differential, load the KERS, activate the DRS, pull the tear-offs off the visor on the helmet, looking in the mirrors, brake, look at the lap time on the display, drink water, read the board to see how many laps are left. Then from time to time, remember to breathe. Have fun? I think you have fun in a show run or in karting. During a race you concentrate on too many variables and factors.