Fernando Alonso has been speaking in Madrid today at a press event organised by Ferrari sponsor Santander. The 28 year old said that he was relatively pleased to have got through the opening four races with the points he has and believes his title challenge is on target.
More importantly his competitive instincts have been revived after an uncompetitive 2009 season with Renault, where he could not contemplate winning, even in the most topsy turvy race.
“Being third in the championship, very few points away from the leader, I believe is a very good situation, ” he told reporters.
“With the potential that we have, with the super team that I have, this is just the beginning and I have a real chance to fight for the world championship.
“I’m enjoying it again, and I’ve felt that bug from winning a race or winning the championship again, and that’s the most positive thing about the start to this year.
“We can’t forget that last year during the final part of the season Ferrari was very far from the leaders, so there were a lot of things to confirm and many wishes to grant and they have been granted.”
Alonso believes that the opening races merely served to prove initial thoughts from testing on the relative performance of the cars. But as we saw last year with McLaren, when the development race kicks in for real at the start of the European season, things can change.
“In Europe it is time to show who is going to fight for the title and who isn’t, ” he said.
He didn’t say much about the controversial overtaking move on his team mate Felipe Massa into the pit lane in China. It will be very interesting to see how Massa reacts to this on the track in the next race in Spain and from now on. He needed to raise his game after the opening races to match Alonso and this is likely to have roused him. He now knows what he is up against.
Interestingly Alonso had a pop at the stories in circulation over the weekend that Ferrari had traced its engine problems to the air valve system and would be applying to the FIA to make a change to the engine in the interests of reliability.
“As for the engines, we have found the problems that we had,” he said. “I know there have been things written about the valves and the air consumption system of the engine, which are completely untrue, as it usually happens.”
Both Ferraris had permitted changes to the engines air valve systems in parc ferme, before the start of the race in Malaysia.
Alonso has lost two engines so far this season, giving rise to concerns that he may not have enough to get him through the season, from his original allocation of eight for the year. If he is forced to take a ninth engine at any stage he will start that race ten places back on the grid.
Here is Ferrari’s engine usage plan to date, as I understand it:
Engine 1 - Friday and Saturday in Bahrain, plus Melbourne Friday and Malaysia Friday. Massa used his Engine 1 in China on Friday. Alonso’s failed on Friday morning in China.
Engine 2 - Bahrain race. Alonso used his for Friday pm, Saturday and Sunday in China. Massa used his for Saturday and Sunday in China
Engine 3 – Melbourne Saturday and Sunday. Also the Malaysia engine on Saturday and Sunday, which failed for Alonso.