Hard to believe, but Fernando Alonso drove his Ferrari F2012 to victory in Malaysia last year, an unexpected result to put it mildly, given that last year’s car had left the Scuderia on the back foot right from the start of that year’s testing.
Although the Spaniard arrives here in good shape, in all senses of the word, on the back of a solid second place in Melbourne last Sunday, being the last winner here doesn’t necessarily make him favourite this time round.
“I think there is no comparison with last year, as at the time we couldn’t even get into Q3 and we were nowhere near where we wanted to be,” recalled Fernando. “This year, from this aspect it is a little bit better and we have a more or less competitive car. In Australia, everything went fine for us and we showed we have a good potential. However, it’s true that the Australian circuit is strange and unusual.”
That means that this weekend we will be looking for a little bit of confirmation that the car is performing well. After experiencing positive feelings in winter testing and then in Australia, this weekend is a very real test for us. We want a clean weekend and hopefully a podium will again be a very good target for us and if we manage it, we can be very happy.”
In Melbourne, it’s fair to say the Lotus win was far from a foregone conclusion, but the Ferrari man sees Raikkonen’s victory as a straightforward result.
“The pace of the Lotus was very good, but it was not something we could not do, it was not out of our reach,” affirmed Fernando. “They had a very clean race with no traffic, so I think we can fight a bit closer to them.”
The Red Bulls – a front row on Saturday, then “only” third in the race – provided more difficult questions.
“As I said, this race will be very interesting from many aspects: for us a confirmation to see if we are competitive, which in fact could be the case for other teams. Red Bull had a big difference in their pace between qualifying and the race and so for them too, this will be a very important weekend to understand what is happening. But that is not our problem: we will just try to do our best and then see what the others do.”
You can’t have a race near the Equator, without journalists asking about the effect of the weather on the drivers.
“It’s not a big difference in this heat and humidity, because for us in the car it does not feel too much hotter,” explained the double world champion. “Whether it’s in Melbourne at 26 degrees or here at 32, when you are driving at 300 kilometres, the air coming in the cockpit is not too bad. You don’t feel the heat so much. In fact, it’s more of a problem when you stop in the garage because of all the heat soak in the car.”