Fernando Alonso interests me greatly, as regular readers will know, particularly his pronouncements and predictions. He rarely wastes his breath on hype or pr. He’s focussed on what is possible and regularly achieves it, as he showed at the end of last season when he took sensational wins in Singapore and Japan.
“It’s still an early stage in the year and already the team has made incredible progress, which gives me the belief that we can still fight for the championship. We will have more updates when we get back to Europe, but at this stage in the year it’s important that we score as many points as possible at each race so we can be in the fight at the end of the season, ” he said this morning in a Renault statement.
Last year Renault started the season with a poor car, the result of some problems and disruptions in the aero department as much as anything else. But boy did they improve the car over the year. Despite having an engine which was clearly not the best, they came up with the right car in the end.
This year they again started poorly, the car was not right in the first tests, but even by the start of the season it was getting closer to the pace and Alonso’s performance in qualifying in China, not just the low fuel final run, but the whole hour, was impressive. Renault had a version of the double diffuser and other updates in China and will have more over the coming races.
Part of his reason for saying this today is to motivate his team, of course, but as I said he’s not given to empty promises and he must realise that with the updates he knows about, he can have a car with which he can challenge. Alonso has never had the best car in F1, but he’s shown consistently that if the car is in the ball park, he knows all the tricks and ruses to win races.
He’s 17 points behind championship leader Jenson Button after three races and will have to rely on the pace of development at Brawn falling away. He reason to believe is, as he said in China, that this season with everything being so new, every update will have an effect on the pecking order, so we will see teams going up and down.
Of the big names from the ‘top teams’ he and Lewis Hamilton are the only ones to have got properly off the mark and he clearly thinks that he can be in the hunt come November. No doubt expecting McLaren, Ferrari and BMW to do likewise. As I said on Sunday, we could end up this season with four or five teams at the front, because of the relative pace they’ve all started at. That is an exciting prospect.
With two rain affected races in a row it’s been hard to pin down the gaps in performance between the top cars. Some are relatively better in qualifying trim than race trim, but hopefully on Sunday we’ll get a good read on how many tenths Renault are behind Brawn and then we’ll know what they have to aim at.