Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has a close relationship with his supporters around the world, which is visible at the races where he interacts with the crowds when possible, and also online, where he manages his own Facebook and Twitter account.
Alonso recently took questions from his Twitter followers. He answered as follows:
@isadoracl: What is your best childhood memory?
FA: My best memories are from my school days. When I played football during break time with my friends, birthday parties, where my friends and family would come together, Christmas…
@elcosmopolitasa: What is happiness for you Alonso?
FA: For me, happiness is to be able to enjoy my family. What I need to be happy is for all of them to be healthy and for me to enjoy what I do every day. Races can give you satisfaction as a result of a job well done or disappointment if the contrary occurs. But I really find happiness outside of my job.
@Ruben_173: What is most important in your life, your family or work?
FA: On a scale of 100%, my family takes up 99% and work 1%. I give work all my dedication and I always try to perform to my best, but my family is always on top; it’s always my absolute priority.
@08181: In what country do you pay your taxes?
FA: I love this question! It always comes up! I pay taxes in the country I live in, like everyone else. I’ve been travelling around the world for many years, working since I was small; always keeping out a watchful eye and here I am, with a perfect record. Thanks for the question!!
@Ruben08mzn: Do you know, more or less, when your museum-circuit will be ready in Asturias?
FA: It’s something that doesn’t only depend on me or my collaborators. What we had to do, as I explained in other interviews, we’ve already done. Our work is already done. But we will be in Asturias soon. We thought this through a lot because we want to share with all of you that part of my sporting career which many may never have the opportunity of knowing. After a lot of work, the Foundation (Fundación Fernando Alonso) has reached an agreement with the Canal de Isabel II and, towards the end of this year, we will inaugurate an exposition in Madrid where many of the cars I’ve driven will be on display: my first kart, my F1 cars from 1999 to 2011…Besides my trophies, some of my helmets, boots and gloves will also be on display. Even my first overall which was sewn by my mother for my first competition when I was three! There will also be road safety activities for kids. I hope you like it. At the end of the day, without your support, none of these victories would have tasted as good. What better way to thank you than by sharing it with you!
@f1nal_lap: A life without doing sport is?
FA: Sport, generally, is synonymous of health, well-being and for me it represents the best way of “speaking” to yourself. Sport improves the quality of your life; it cleans your mind and body. I consider it highly recommendable.
@paulagcantalejo: How many hours of sport do you do every week?
FA: On Grand Prix weeks I tend to do 5 hours, besides practice sessions, qualifying and the GP of course. When I spend a week at home, I complete between 15 and 20 hours of sport.
@Mooolina: On a relaxing day off have you ever swapped going out for a run for a couple of hours on the Playstation?
FA: Of course! Whenever I can! The days are very long and I’ve normally got time for a bit of everything. I usually spend my mornings doing sport and in the afternoons leisurely activities…which of course includes Playstation!
@Lili_Tim: Do you watch NBA? And which club do you support?
FA: Yes, I like basketball a lot in general, as a fan and as a player. Every now and then I like to take part in games. And I love the NBA, I’ve spent a lot of nights awake watching games. My favourite team? The Los Angeles Lakers.
@appotumus: Do you watch American sports, if so, which is your favourite?
FA: Yes, I love the NBA. I think it’s a really entertaining spectacle. As I’ve already said, basketball is one of my favourite sports.
@MARIOTETEGUAPO: Who is your current favourite player? And retired legend? #NBA
FA: Well that’s quite a tough question…Probably Kobe Bryant. Our great Pau Gasol also deserves a special mention. What he’s done and what I’m sure he’s still going to achieve deserves a lot of credit. And out of the legends, Michael Jordan. That number 23 for the Bulls made me dream as a kid!
@GomezCampillo14: What do you feel when swapping a team that gave you a Megane for one that gives you a Ferrari? Haha
FA: Well…they didn’t give me Renault cars and they don’t give me Ferraris now! It is true that now and again, for a couple of weeks, they give you a car that the brand has just released to promote it but until now, every car I’ve wanted to have in my garage I’ve had to pay for.
@MAguerri55: What road car which you have driven has impressed you most?
FA: The road car which has impressed me most is the LaFerrari. It’s a spectacular car; I honestly think a long time will have to go by until we see a car on the market with similar qualities.
@guille31794: Have you tested LaFerrari yet? What’s it like driving that machine? Is it a thoroughbred at the level of the F50 or F40?
FA: Yes, I was able to take part in the development of the car and give some directions which were finally adopted. Besides, amongst the team of designers is one of my best friends, so I’ve followed the project from day one.
@william_penna: If you had to choose one of the countries that you’ve got to know through F1 to live in, bar Spain, which would you pick?
FA: To visit, I really like Japan. To live, if I couldn’t live in Spain, I’d live in Italy. It’s the most similar to Spain.
@jupsanchez: Where would you spend your holidays in Spain other than Asturias?
FA: Asturias is always top of the list, without a doubt! I also think the Canary Islands are an ideal destination.
@Uckeritta: What languages do you speak?
FA: I speak Spanish, Italian, English and French. And I’m improving my Russian!
@elisacallen: A question I’ve asked you since you started in this…what is your favourite music, film and series?
FA: Here it goes:
-Music: Pop, Spanish music in general.
@Mr_Waits: How big is your neck?
FA: Hehehe…You’re not the first person to ask! It is 41 cm in diameter.
@_sergiolis_: Where do you find those sized caps?
FA: In any shop! I’ve always found all the commotion created with this really funny! You have to see the funny side My helmet and cap size is M, and is usually smaller than that of my teammates. I’ve always found all this confusion funny.
@ReginaF1addict: I’ve always been curious as to what size clothes you wear
FA: I’ve got size 42 shoes (8 in the UK). As for shirts, jumpers, etc, I wear an M.
@alvarodma: What is your favourite pizza? Where have you eaten what you would consider the best pizza in the world?
FA: Hmmmm…Maybe a “simple” one, with not too many ingredients, like a Margherita, or just with ham. I think I recall eating the best pizza in the world at a restaurant we usually go to in Monza. Spectacular!
@therealrenz: Don’t you get tired of sleeping at hotels all the time?
FA: Formula 1 is probably the competition that chooses the most disperse locations on the planet to celebrate its events. Airplanes, hotels, waiting rooms, transfers…It’s probably the most tiring and worst aspect of F1. But we’re already quite used to it and we take it well.
@AlvGar89: Do you stay at the same hotels every year at each circuit?
FA: Normally, yes. It’s been twelve seasons now going to the same hotels, and at many Grands Prix, going to the same rooms…
@ASapena: Do you always manage your social networks??… Thanks for being close to your fans!!
FA: Thanks to you guys for your support!! Yes, of course I manage them. Always! I’ve already said it on numerous occasions. In my opinion, it would be very daft to spend time taking photos, explaining my sport sessions or mentioning my feelings towards different things that happen to me and then have to send it to another person for them to post it! Another thing is that on occasions I may ask someone from my entourage to take a photo of me in moments where, obviously, I can’t take them (in the car ready to leave the garage, running, on my bike…). My intention when I opened my Twitter and Facebook accounts and my website was to bring you guys closer to me, for you to always know the truth of my whereabouts or what I’m doing and to receive your comments. I think you guys have a lot to say and you always contribute. How then could I let someone else write for me! It would make no sense.
@Alessandra_fed: How would you describe your adventure on Twitter in three adjectives?
FA: I think three adjectives aren’t enough. I hope to answer your question by saying that I think it’s the perfect channel for me to communicate with my fans directly, with no middle men, as I’ve already said on other occasions. It also gives me the chance to “listen” to all of you, something that is really important.
@Grzechu_s: Fernando what do you think about future of Robert Kubica?
Best regards from Poland
FA: Thanks Grzechu. I hope that Robert’s future will be simply fantastic. After the serious accident he suffered, he’s a driver that, because of his strength and personality, is missed dearly. Hopefully we will see Robert back in F1 very soon! He deserves it; he’s an example of fighting and overcoming obstacles.
@IsaacIssy: Are you currently a better friend of Lewis than when he was your teammate or have you always had the same relationship?
FA: Mine and Lewis’ relationship has always been similar: one of respect and cordiality.
@Paula_fanAlo: Are you still in touch with drivers that you coincided with in other categories?
FA: Generally, yes. More with some than others, which is normal. But I keep in touch with all of them, especially those who have been my teammates.
@David_Y_95: Are there any decisions you made in your career that you now regret?
FA: The truth is no. Luckily, every decision I’ve made has turned out to be the right one in time. Some before others, but I don’t feel I’ve made mistakes.
@lukebarry97: How would you like to be remembered when the day comes that you retire?
FA: That’s something that each person will decide for themselves. And, like with everyone, each person will remember you in a different way…;)
13 March 2013, Ferrari – The winters seem to get shorter every year and just three and half months on from that thrilling finale in Sao Paolo, here we are about to tackle the first race of the 2013 season. Not a great deal has changed since that November day at Interlagos, but the new year features one less team and one less race, so that Scuderia Ferrari and ten other teams will tackle nineteen grands prix. As far as the rules are concerned, the bulk of the regulations are identical to last year, even if there are a few minor changes such as the fact DRS use is now restricted in qualifying, whereas before it was free. 2013 will mark the end of an era, as it is the last time, for now at least, that the F1 cars will be powered by normally aspirated V8 engines, so that in Ferrari’s case the 056 power plant will be taking its curtain call. Everything remains stable on the technical side at the Prancing Horse team, with the new organisational structure running smoothly and the senior personnel remaining unchanged, while the driver line-up is the same it has been since 2010, the two drivers totalling ten years service at Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso now starting his fourth season with the Maranello squad, while Felipe Massa has already worn the famous red race suit for seven years. The Spaniard feels the team is ready for the challenges that lie ahead. “I think we are more or less ready for Melbourne,” he maintained. “Of course, we would have liked more testing, but the rules are the same for everyone and we completed our programme throughout the tests. I feel confident in the car, while knowing Australia will not be easy. As usual, our aero development will be the key to having a good season, while getting a good understanding of the new, more complicated Pirelli tyres will also be essential.”
The stability when it comes to the technical regulations means that the majority of teams was able to get a car to run reliably during the very limited twelve days of pre-season testing, which is why everyone is being very cagey about making any predictions for the 2013 championship. While it’s true that it is very difficult to make any meaningful assessment of everyone’s relative performance, because of different fuel loads and test programmes, at Scuderia Ferrari, we are prepared to stick our collective neck out and make a bold prediction as to who will be the winner in 2013: the answer? The viewers, spectators and race fans, who look set to be treated to a vintage season of close racing, with more than a handful of teams looking like serious contenders for race wins and podium finishes. Felipe Massa reckons the season might not be as open as last year’s. “I expect the drivers from two or three teams to do most of the winning,” says the Brazilian. “As for ourselves, we start the season with a better car than we did last year, so I am happy and positive with the way testing went, when I felt the car evolved from the first day to the last, when I was happy with the balance of the F138 and felt comfortable at the wheel.”
One should not expect too many answers on Friday either: as a temporary street-type circuit, Albert Park is very green, with little running completed in FP1, so it will be on Saturday afternoon that teams will stop being coy about what they can do and deliver the year’s first fairly accurate litmus test of relative performance. However, the Melbourne track is good at hiding the truth. One factor that will no longer be a problem is the cold weather tyre degradation we saw in Barcelona in what was a colder than usual final two test sessions. But on the other side of the world, Melbourne is going to be much hotter than usual at this time of year. Currently, temperatures are in the mid 30s, although these should drop to mid 20s on Friday and Saturday and possibly get as low as 19 on race day. However, the experience gained at the Catalunya circuit regarding Pirelli rain tyres will not be useful this weekend. On the tyre front, the choices in Albert Park are aggressive. “We will have the Supersoft tyres and I like that as I always prefer the softer end of the range,” revealed Felipe. “In fact, managing the tyres, as well as making improvements to the aero side of the package through the year will be very important, but we really need to be perfect in every area, also on the mechanical side of the car. Personally, I plan to start the 2013 season the way I went during the second half of 2012 and then build on that.”
What can one expect of Alonso and Massa this weekend? Predictions serve no purpose except to turn round and bite you when you least expect it. Clearly, the F138 is better born than the F2012 and it would be disappointing if both drivers did not make it through to Q3 on Saturday evening in Albert Park and therefore secure top ten places on the grid. Anything else would be meaningless speculation. Nevertheless, one can risk an extrapolation based on the relative strengths down the pit lane at the final round last year, which means it is reasonable for the Scuderia to expect to be within the top three teams in Albert Park. “I don’t think we will see one team dominate, but also I don’t expect seven winners in the first races, like last year,” added Fernando. “It will be very close and from our point of view, a good result this weekend would remove some of the stress. I enjoy the Albert Park circuit, it is technical and difficult and the track, being a street circuit, evolves throughout the weekend.” Felipe is also looking forward to finally going racing. “I can’t say Albert Park is my favourite track, but I love coming to Australia, which is a great country with very nice people who really like their racing. The track here is demanding, but I expect the F138 will be well adapted to it and that we can have a good first weekend.”
The Australian GP has a habit of providing some surprises, but it would take a brave man to bet on Ferrari adding to its tally of seven wins Down Under, the last dating back to Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 victory. Fernando was victorious here in 2006, but not at the wheel of a red car, while Felipe’s best result is a third place trip to the podium in 2010.
Lewis Hamilton is in a particularly enviable position in 2013: he has moved to a team in which he is not expected to win the World Championship, at least not this year. Therefore, there is almost zero external pressure to perform. If he wins the title, he’ll be hailed as a hero. If he doesn’t, then nobody will criticise him – he’s not expected to have the car to deliver a title this year anyway.
In many respects, Hamilton is in a similar position to that of Michael Schumacher at Ferrari in 1996. Schumacher had left a top team and gone to Italy to rescue the struggling Ferrari team. It was clear that Schumacher would not challenge for the title that year, and he didn’t, but he also put in some inspired and brilliant performances, particularly in Spain where he dominated a sodden Grand Prix and made the other drivers look like amateurs. Schumacher may not have won the title, but his stock certainly went up as he was recognised for his supreme skill in a difficult car.
Hamilton has similarly moved from a top team (McLaren) to one that was not a title challenger last season (Mercedes). In the last three seasons, the works Mercedes team has won just a single race and never looked like producing a title-winning car. Hamilton has arrived at the team as part of a shake-up intended to deliver championship glory to Mercedes. At the earliest, he and the team are expected to challenge at the front in 2014, when new engine regulations are likely to benefit teams like Mercedes that manufacture their own engines. So this season is dedicated to development, to making sure the pieces are in place for a title challenge next year.
But Hamilton, much like Schumacher back in 1996, is a racer. He is acknowledged as perhaps the quickest driver in Formula One today, and can always be counted on to give his all on the track in pursuit of results. Hamilton does not like coming second. So we can expect him to push with everything he has for victory in 2013.
If Hamilton and Mercedes to triumph against the odds in 2013, it will be a great story for Formula One: the return of one of the great names of motoring to the top of the racing ladder, along with the second title that seems inevitable in Hamilton’s career. On the other hand, if as expected Hamilton and Mercedes have a strong but ultimately unsuccessful season, it will all be accepted as part of the development plan.
With just over a week to go to the first race in Australia, it’s a good time to reflect on what’s happened in testing and what to look out for in the first few races of the season
The Teams – who will be quick?
The results of pre-season testing are always difficult to interpret, as it is never clear what the teams are trying to achieve. Varying fuel loads in particular can make the order misleading.
In Barcelona, at a circuit that is considered a good all-round test of a car’s characteristics due to its mix of corners and very long straight, the fastest time was set by Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes W04. In fact, the Mercedes looked competitive throughout the two Barcelona tests, after struggling with reliability issues early in the Jerez test.
However, Mercedes were not competitive in the latter part of 2012, which suggests that their position at the top of the order may be slightly false. Lewis Hamilton in particular is playing down the team’s chances of challenging for victories in 2013, frequently telling the press that he feels no pressure to deliver results in his first season as a works Silver Arrows driver.
It’s extremely tough to predict an order amongst the teams, except to point out that Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus all look competitive as expected, and with Mercedes should feature at the sharp end of the grid. That being said, Sauber are looking in reasonable shape as are Force India and Williams. Toro Rosso are the team that seems to have lost ground over the winter, but that will have to wait for the racing to begin to be confirmed.
The general consensus in the paddock seems to be that Red Bull and McLaren will lead the way initially, but Ferrari and Lotus are making optimistic noises in the press about their chances, which suggests that they have reason to be confident.
At the back of the field, Caterham do not seem to have made up much ground on the rest of the pack, and are likely to struggle for points again this season, depending on how aggressively they can develop their new car. Marussia have done nothing to suggest that they will not be at the back of the field when racing begins next week, but their development programme in 2012 was solid which suggests that they could be a team to watch for progress in the latter part of the season.
When Pirelli entered Formula One in 2011, they were tasked with increasing the number of pitstops and improving overtaking opportunities. They responded to the challenge magnificently, and the tyres they have produced, together with other technical changes in the sport, have contributed to two seasons of action-packed races.
For 2013, Pirelli have made changes to the construction of their tyres to ease warm-up issues, which had plagued some teams in 2011 and 2012. They have also softened all of the tyre compounds to increase degradation and improve performance across the entire range.
While the teams have had 12 days of pre-season testing using the new tyres, they will not have been able to collect much data about the behaviour of the tyres on their 2013 cars, as temperatures in Jerez and Barcelona for the tests were well below the levels expected for the Grands Prix. All of the teams suffered from tyre graining issues, particularly with the harder compounds which did react well to the cold.
As in 2012, the early part of the season should see drivers making frequent pitstops, and any teams that can use the tyres gently enough to make fewer stops than the competition should find themselves at a significant advantage. As the season goes on, however, tyres are likely to play less of a major role in determining the race results.
While the usual suspects – Vettel, Alonso, Button, Raikkonen – will likely feature at the front of the grid as last year, there are a few drivers with a point to prove in 2013, whether or not they are prepared to admit it to the press.
Mark Webber has been the slower driver in the championship-winning car for the past three seasons, which is a situation he will want to remedy. He clearly does not appreciate being outpaced by Vettel, and relishes his occasional triumphs over his more successful team-mate. Webber knows only one way to compete – all-out commitment – and that is how he can be expected to start the season. If he can establish himself early as a title contender, this could well be Webber’s year to taste success.
Felipe Massa is fortunate to be at Ferrari, after an appalling 2011 season and miserable first half of 2012. That he is still racing in red is partly due to Ferrari’s emphasis on running the team more as a family that protects its own than a cut-throat business, and partly due to some inspired performances in the second half of last season. Massa’s extended contract runs out at the end of 2013, and he will be acutely aware that he is racing for his seat and has all but run out of chances at Ferrari. He has to win races to stay at Ferrari, and the sooner he does so the better for his career.
Sergio Perez has filled a large gap – that left by Lewis Hamilton at McLaren – and considering that Ferrari were not prepared to sign him due to his relative lack of experience, he will feel the need to justify McLaren’s faith in him at this early stage of his career. He is quick, that much is clear, and his driving style is silky smooth much like that of his new team-mate Jenson Button. Whether or not he can use his talents to deliver success quickly in his new team remains to be seen.
Lewis Hamilton has had to fill the largest shoes of all – those of Michael Schumacher – at Mercedes. Although Schumacher was not at his best during his three-year return, there is something of a “Schumacher couldn’t do it. Who can?” feeling about Mercedes. Hamilton has been very keen to downplay any expectations over the winter, constantly telling the press that wins are probably out of reach. But behind that cautious exterior, he knows that he is possibly the quickest driver in the field, and he is an aggressive racer who wants nothing but victory. Hamilton could very well surprise everyone with a strong championship challenge.
And then are the bad boys: Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean. Both are fast and entertaining, but a bit rough around the edges. There is no doubt about their talent – each has a GP2 championship to his name and Maldonado won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix – but they have a history of causing collisions and making unnecessary mistakes. If these two can clean up their driving for 2013, this should be an action-packed season with some daring overtaking.
And, finally, there are the new drivers: Estaban Gutierrez at Sauber, Veltteri Bottas at Williams, Giedo van der Garde at Caterham and the all-new Marussia line-up of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. Each of them will want to make enough of an impression to, firstly, see out the season and, secondly, stay in Formula One past the end of 2013. The one driver who is not new, but rather returning, is Adrian Sutil, who has already shown in testing that he has lost none of his speed, but will want to show that he can match or beat team-mate Paul di Resta at Force India.
Oddly, in 2013 there are no new circuits on the Formula One calendar. There was meant to be one – a street circuit in New Jersey which would have hosted the second US race on the calendar – but the event was cancelled as the facility was unlikely to be completed in time for the race.
For the teams, the lack of new circuits is important, as it means they have knowledge of every race venue on the calendar. For each of the past few seasons, there has been at least one new location for Grand Prix racing, which has meant the teams and drivers have had to work doubly hard in order to understand how their cars work on a new track surface in various conditions. This year, they do not have that problem, and can carry out extensive preparatory setup work in their simulators before arriving at the races and fine-tuning the cars for racing.
The first four Grands Prix are “fly-away” races. In other words, the venues are not accessible by road, which means the multitude of trucks that normally accompany a Formula One team have to be left behind, and the teams rely on a reduced amount of freight that is sent to the venues by air and sea.
The normal result of this arrangement is that the teams run cars that are largely unchanged from the first to fourth race, as they do not have all of the equipment they would need to implement major modifications. The first major upgrades of the season typically appear on the cars when the European season starts in Spain.
The limitations of the schedule in terms of early-season upgrades mean that it is of paramount importance to the teams that they start the season in good shape, as they can otherwise be substantially on the back foot after four poor races, particularly if one team brings a particularly strong package to the first four rounds of the season. A good example is the success of the Brawn team in 2009, where they started the season with a vastly superior car and dominated the early races, and although the other teams caught up by the end of the year, the early results were enough to secure both titles for Brawn. While that sort of dominance is unlikely due to the stability of the technical regulations, it is still important to start the season well, particularly as the title can come down to a difference of only a few points as it has done so often in recent years.