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Alonso says driving Monaco is 'stressful'
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Alonso says driving Monaco is 'stressful'
Posted By:   |  21 May 2009   |  3:52 pm GMT  |  0 comments

I caught up with Fernando Alonso this afternoon at his press briefing in the Renault motorhome. He’s one of the few drivers to do this session on the first day of practice.

I was interested to hear how good it felt to be back on the streets here, brushing the barriers, feeling that unique adrenalin rush of Monaco. His answer surprised me a little,

“Not feeling good because being close to the barriers is not something you enjoy too much it’s a bit stressful. It’s always nice to be at Monaco and you get a different feeling, but it’s very demanding in terms of concentration in terms of how precise you are with your lines etc, because a little mistake and you finish your session. On Thursday you need to do as many laps as possible, so from a driving point of view you need to start risking, improve some racing lines, but you need to allow some margin because you want to do as many laps as possible.”

Today went pretty well for the team. Alonso wound up 11th, but he set his fastest time on the eighth lap of a 12 lap run on used soft tyres, so his time is not particularly representative of his outright pace. He thinks that with a bit of luck, a clear track and a bold lap he might squeeze into a slot on the front three rows of the grid.

“Top five, top six will be the absolute maximum. Maybe a more normal result will be fighting for the last couple of points. It’s a good opportunity for us to fight against teams we cannot fight on normal circuits. We know that when we get to Turkey we will be between position eight and position ten, more or less. So here is a bit different. Maybe here the position changes, if you have a good lap in qualifying, if you are close to the barriers, everything goes perfectly on your lap then maybe you start fourth in the race and you can keep that position.”

Today was more about the drivers getting comfortable with the car and the track than anything else, doing as many laps as possible to get into the groove. The circuit changes a lot here over a weekend as the rubber goes down. But already we saw how fast these cars are with the slick tyres and improved mechanical grip compared with last season. the fastest time today was a 1m15.243, which is only a tenth slower than the fastest low fuel time in qualifying from last year. So I reckon we will see some very fast times on Saturday.

“The set up was good more or less straight away,” says Alonso. “We tried not to change too many things on the car because the circuit keeps changing on every run, improving and improving when you put some rubber down. It’s quite clear for everyone that supersoft tyre will be better for qualifying for the one lap performance and the soft tyre will be better for the race with better consistency.”

Alonso got the maximum out of the car in Spain, finishing fifth behind the Brawns and the Red Bulls. He’s punching well above the car’s weight this season, so keep an eye out for him on Saturday.

He finished by reiterating his comments from yesterday about not wanting to drive in F1 if the manufacturers pull out at the end of this season,
“If all the manufacturers retire from F1, it’s not any more F1. It’s not about technology, it’s not about improvement it’s not about the maximum category in motorsport. I won’t consider driving in a category that is not the maximum of technology.”

The teams meet tomorrow morning to discuss the situation with the budget cap and then they meet again at 4pm with Max Mosley. With a week until entries open for the 2010 championship it will be a time for cutting to the chase.

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  1. Paul H-E says:

    James,

    The superb quality of your writing and your insights into F1 make this the best F1 commentary website of all.

    It just adds to the feeling of how very much we miss you commentating on the races themselves with Martin Brundle. You made a great team and I sorely miss your enthusiasm, knowledge and the excitement you brought to the races.

    If only the BBC would see sense and bring you into the fold…

    Best wishes,
    Paul

  2. Tom says:

    His comments about leaving F1 – is that the Ferrari party line (with next year’s contract in mind)? Raikkonen said much the same thing.

  3. His idea of ‘stressful’ is what 99.999% of the rest of us would find utterly petrifying!

  4. Jesse says:

    You know, so much of the budget cap issue is centered around the ramifications of the major teams leaving. I’m really surprised that no one is talking about the impact of the drivers leaving. Without Massa you lose the entire Brazilian TV audience and massive revenue. Maybe even the race there. The only reason Spain has 2 GPs is because of Alonso. People/countries are much more loyal to their drivers than to a team. If the best drivers aren’t there, the audience will go with them. It would take at least a couple of years to build any kind of name recognition of the new drivers. Even if they managed to build up these new drivers, what’s golf without Tiger Woods?

  5. tom says:

    hi james thanks again for another top noch post i was wondering what your view was on mclarens chances this weekend?? thanks

  6. S Kent says:

    It’s not clear how much of this ‘stress’ Alonso is directly attributing to the new-reg cars. Drivers have always had to maintain high levels of concentration at Monaco, and I would imagine that the increased mechanical grip would make the ’09 cars a little less skittish…

  7. Geoff says:

    Can anyone refresh my memory as to why Monaco practise is held on Thursday, rather than the usual Friday? IIRC, its origins had something to do with the Grimaldis’ special wishes but I can’t remember the exact reason.

    Curious minds want to know!

    Cheers,
    Geoff

  8. sean says:

    Hi James
    With all the talk around where F1 will be at next year what is then feeling from the driver’s and team people on the ground.
    Have you asked any of them how they feel about the reality this could be there last time at monaco.

  9. rpaco says:

    Yea I meant to add Saturday too.

  10. Friday is/was a bank holiday in Monaco.

  11. PaulL says:

    I wonder if the uncertainty of his F1 career is making the normal demands of driving extra stressful.

    Every other time I’ve seen him at Monaco he’s seemed calm and in the groove behind the wheel.

  12. James Allen says:

    Mmm, hard to say from what we saw today. Will be tough to score big points

  13. rpaco says:

    Probably it was so that Princess Grace could have a nice dinner with Graham Hill and co, back in the days when it was normal to go out on the town the night before the race. Monte Carlo is very special the night before, electric atmosphere and the highest prices in Europe if not the world. No doubt DC would be the man to ask being not only a resident but a friend of the royal family. High Society! A swell party!
    (one of the best ever films for old gits, starring not only Grace, before she was whisked away, but also Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Celest Holm)

  14. Wolfgang says:

    The Monaco Grand Prix was always in the week of Ascension Day, which is a public holiday and always a Thursday. Friday is no practice to open the streets to public traffic and allow normal life – so it seems to be more a practical reason than a ‘Grimaldi’-rule.

  15. RB says:

    Typical of many European towns, every Friday is Monaco’s traditional “Market Day” and the streets are closed off for the vendors.

  16. Howard Hughes says:

    I think they arranged it on Thursday so that my parents had something to do after the Cannes Film Festival ended… My dear mum wasn’t particularly impressed by gazing at Penelope Cruz whilst eating her lunch the other day – she couldn’t wait to wave at Button screaming past… A day longer to wait would have quite vexed her I fear.

  17. monktonnik says:

    I don’t buy this whole “no manufacturers, no drivers line”. If you offer Massa or Alonso the money their resolve will disappear. They just towing the party line.

    Don’t worry about the Brazilian fans, they will have Bruno Senna to support next year.

    In fact, if the name Senna returns to F1, they wont even need Ferrari anymore!

  18. tiburón says:

    I agree 100%. F1 can survive without the manufacturers but when the “star” drivers leave and the grid is full of Nakajima’s and Piquet’s the audience will leave too.

    At the end of it all I think that Bernie and CVC are going to make Max back down. There is no doubt that the commercial viability of the sport will suffer greatly without the manufacturers. CVC is not an investor for life, they will want to sell it sooner than later.

  19. Carlos says:

    Alonso has always said that Monaco isn’t one of his favorite tracks from a driving perspective, so I don’t think he’s talking about anything new for ’09.

  20. James Allen says:

    No Thursday was the public holiday, it’s Ascension Day, but they tend to turn it into a long weekend

  21. James Allen says:

    Sure, but everyone is waiting to see what happens. There is a long way to go. I think they would all be very sad if that were to turn out to be the case. I do think Ferrari will not put an entry in if things don’t change with the rules and some of the manufacturers would follow that lead.

  22. Howard Hughes says:

    It is a fine movie. Ever read about how Onassis set Grace & Rainier up? Fascinating story – back when Ari literally ‘owned’ Monaco he decided the place needed a shot of Hollywood glamour; he initially set his heart on Marilyn Monroe but she proved too unstable, then he matchmade Kelly and the rest was history…

    She was a proper minx before she became a princess too…

  23. guy says:

    James do you think the teams should publish fuel weights etc for practice, a bit like quali, so we can ‘read’ the times better? At present it’s all a bit pointless…

  24. RB says:

    Monaco GP Sunday is usually, but not always, the weekend of Ascension Day. For example, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2008 races did not occur on Ascension weekend.

  25. Thank you for the correction, James.

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