Fernando Alonso scored his 31st Formula 1 win when he powered to victory at the Chinese Grand Prix, reversing the DNF disappointment of Malaysia and reviving his world championship campaign – the win also returned him to the top step of the podium for the first time since July last year when he won in Germany. The Spaniard spoke at the post race functions in Shanghai.
A fairly dominant victory in the end and your 31st victory, putting you fourth on the all-time list just behind Ayrton Senna. What does this one mean to you?
Fernando Alonso: First of all and thank you for the support all weekend. Amazing fans all weekend and it’s very nice to race here. About the race: yes, definitely it was a fantastic race for us, from the start to the end, without big problems with the car. The tyre degradation was better than expected probably, so we managed more or less the pace. Yeah, it feels great after the retirement in Malaysia, we had some pressure to finish the race. The two races we finished this year; one second place and today the victory so definitely the start of this 2013 campaign is looking good so we are very optimistic.
We heard the team talking to you during the grand prix telling you not need to push. They were trying to slow you down in some respects and you were saying ‘I’m not pushing’.
FA: Well, you always push. In a Formula One race it’s impossible not to push but it’s true that we had some pace, maybe, in the pocket. Not easy to know when to use it depending on the state of the tyres. A little bit more potential and hopefully we can show it in Bahrain in one week.
Only one week until Bahrain. What are you expecting in terms of performance there and what’s the celebration going to be like tonight with your Ferrari team?
FA: I expect a tough race again. In Bahrain I think we will see different conditions and who knows how competitive anyone can be. But definitely, as I said before, from the races that we finished this year the car seems to be able to be on the podium, so we hope to be on the podium again in Bahrain. The celebration tonight? Nothing special. I have a flight very early for Bahrain, so tonight I think some dinner. I think they guys will celebrate more than me.
You were a winner here in 2005, how does it feel to have won again? It seemed to be a perfect race for you.
FA: It feels good. Obviously a long time from the victory here – eight years. Definitely it was nearly a perfect Sunday for us, with not any problem in the race. The start was clean; it was good. We managed to overtake Kimi. And then in the first stint we managed to pass Lewis as well. The car felt a little bit better on the degradation side let’s say. And then in the rest of the race, obviously you need to take car of the tyres a little bit, you need to manage the gap with the guys behind. It was not so easy to understand the race sometimes. We were overtaking the McLarens, Hulkenberg, Sebastian, so it was a little bit of a mix. So it was not an easy race and there were some moments of action let’s say and the risk is there when you have to do an overtaking manoeuvre and you have to manage that as well. The team did a perfect job with the set-up of the car for quali and the race, perfect pit stop times and pit stops executed let’s say. At the end of the race the victory is a good reward for the team, well deserved after the disappointment in Malaysia and you know, the car felt good. The two races we finished, one was second and the victory today, so definitely it’s a positive start to this championship. We need to keep going like that, in this direction, with good weekends, with not any extra risk and hopefully in Bahrain we can score some good points again.
Who is your main rival for the title, as a driver and as a car? Is it Kimi and Lotus or Sebastian and Red Bull?
FA: I think it’s a little bit too early to say. We need to wait until maybe after the summer break or something like that to clearly see the real contenders. Hopefully we are in that group after the summer. Hopefully Felipe can be in that group as well, that will mean that the car is going well, and I think at the moment Lotus, Red Bull and Mercedes are in the same position as us, let’s say. I don’t see anyone has a clear advantage. Maybe Red Bull was very dominant in Australia in all free practices; in qualifying and the race they were suffering a little bit of degradation but definitely very fast. In Malaysia, they were maybe a little bit more in the groove but here they were similar to the others so let’s wait and see what the updates of every car brings to the pace, and we will see how luck plays. It happened to Nico in Australia where he didn’t finish with car problems, it happened to us in Malaysia. I think hearing Kimi’s comments today… you never know whether the front wing will remain there and finish the race or if the front wing will go underneath your car and you don’t finish the race. The same with Webber, who had the problem with the tyre today and didn’t finish. This can happen to anyone and this will also dictate who are contenders as well, so the luck factor is there.
Despite the problems in Malaysia, since Melbourne Ross Brawn has been singing the praises of Ferrari’s long run pace. Do you think your win today with the margin that you had confirms that?
FA: I think it’s normally one of the strongest points for us, not only this year, also in the past two or three years, we are normally more or less OK on Sundays. On single lap pace we struggle a little bit, so whatever reasons, the long runs are normally good for us and tyre management but we don’t also really know the reason so we need to be careful on that and maximise these type of weekends, when everything goes well, but I’m sure we will struggle on some other weekends and we need to maximise the points there. Sometimes we can win, sometimes the maximum is third or fifth but we need to do the job. I’m looking forward to next weekend because it’s a very good test with very high temperatures and we will again see some problems and we need to deliver when the tough moments arise.
Was there maybe extra psychological pressure for you in this race, did you feel it or not?
FA: Not really. I think there is pressure at every race I start. Every year, especially in Ferrari, especially every campaign you start people expect only wins from you, the World Championship. Every race is more or less the same. Every season I’ve started in Formula One, this is the 13th, there is a battle with teammates, always discussions. So this year is no different. I think pressure is always there sometimes. As I said, you can deliver a good result, everyone is happy. Sometimes you cannot do it and you need to improve. I think we’ve been working very hard this winter with the team and after the first two races as well, these three weeks were very useful for us in Maranello, working out a little bit which way we can perform a little bit better, especially in qualifying which is one of our problems normally at the weekends and also looking very carefully at driving style and what we can do to improve the performance with each year’s rules which they keep changing and you need to adapt a little bit, so I’m very happy with the job done and I’m in the best team, so I should be confident that everything will go in the right direction.