After limited mileage during his first three days in the McLarn-Honda MCL32, Fernando Alonso talked to the press about the problems his team has faced and what it means for the start of the 2017 season.
Is this the engine spec you'll have for Australia? And is this engine worse than last years'?
As for the first question, no, this is not the Australia-spec engine but it's an evolution from what we had last week. For Australia we'll have a different evolution, so from that point of view there's still hope to gain some power and reliability with the final version. But last week's spec didn't deliver the results expected and this week's spec is also going bellow expectations. For Australia we'll have to hope for more, we have to be hopeful because the last two specs we worked with didn't match our expectations. We'll see. As of today we may have even less power than last year, but we're running with settings that are not even close to the ones we'll use in Australia, for different reasons, for different problems we have in the engine. The full power of our engine won't be seen until we all the problems we are experiencing are sorted.
When do you believe you'll be able to get on top of all the issues and get all the potential out of the car?
I don't know. It will depend a lot from the big decisions that have to be made at the top. I believe the main goal is to get to Australia in the best possible conditions, something that we haven't be able to achieve in the first six days of testing. We have two days left, one per driver, to try fundamental things in the car and start to unlock the power we have inside the engine, to arrive in Australia with a medium/high level of reliability that will allow us to finish the race with as few problems as possible and with as much engine power available as we can get out of it. The second priority is to be competitive, to eventually be in the battle for the top five, get to the podium and win races - everything we dreamed of for this year. For that, hopefully we get the big decisions that will change this situation. I expect an incredible and immediate reaction from the team.
With all those problems around, were you able to get some positives out of these first six days of testing?
I get a positive feeling from the new rules, in general. We can attack the corners, we can feel there's a lot more grip, so that was a nice and positive surprise. Now we can drive flat out, the way we like, not like little kids to keep the tyres alive, to prevent strange things from happening, etc. That's the best way to feel a Formula One car, so it's fun to be free to attack and all that is missing is going down the straights at the same speed as the others. I think the car is good. From the analysis we can do compared to the other cars, around the corners we don't lose time in almost all corners, but we're 30 /40 kph down in every single straight. Adding up all the time lost on the straights, you get the gap we have to the faster cars.
What are the short-term solutions you'll have for Australia?
I don't have any, all I can do is to do my job the best I can, go as fast as possible around the corners, so the work that is there to be done and needs addressing is from the engine, to unlock the power it's supposed to have inside, because we haven't yet been able to run at full power, with the engine power we expected to have. And we're also lacking in the reliability, to be able to run 15, 35 or 43 consecutive laps - as many as we want - and stop only when we want to, not when an alarm goes off in the engine.
Do you think you'd be in a position to win in Australia if you had a Mercedes engine in the back of your car?
You never know. Those things are impossible to calculate and answer. If you see this driver would win with that car, you cannot really know - you never know. Let's get together with Honda, push ahead together, because I believe we have potential to do a lot better than what we're doing now. We can't be 30/40 kph slower down the straights. If they have any problem, if there are differences between what happens in the test benches and on the track, whatever is happening, we have to overcome that together and complete as many laps as possible on the last two days of testing.
Is this situation similar to 2015's?
No, I think it's different. In 2015 we weren't prepared at the start of testing, but I think Honda didn't know anything about their own engine at the start of 2015. Today they have a lot of information from the last two years, so I think they already have the answer to all the problems they've seen and experienced until now with the info they got from the last two years. I believe that we have a good electrical motor - similar or equal to the best - as we can deploy all the way down the straights almost into the braking areas, so we're doing well in that area. We're doing well in terms of strategy, engine mapping, gear shifting speed - things that in 2015 we weren't able to do. There's a lot of base work already done, but there are two or three areas of the engine in which we seem to be in neutral and we need, in the last two days, to get on top of those areas, so we can get to Australia in a better condition and then work hard to win races this year.
Did you have any contacts with Mercedes after Rosberg announced his retirement? And looking at their car, would you like to have moved there?
Listen to last week's press conferences, all the answers are there! I have a contract, I'm happy here, so no reason to change.
Bottas had a contract too...
He has a different manager...
Would you prefer to be running with an evolution of last year's engine or are you happy to invest time and lose laps on a completely new engine like this one?
No, no, I don't mind being in this situation. The laps we complete are quality laps, we're getting to know the car, we find some issues, like the rear brake calliper overheating after 11 laps, or the tear offs going into the radiators and making temperatures go up, meaning you have to put a net on the intake for Australia to prevent that from happening. You always learn from every lap you complete. What matters is to try different set-ups, hard, soft, different ride heights and get to the end of the day knowing in which conditions the car performs better.
You can do that in 12 runs of ten laps each, completing 120 laps, or in 12 runs of three laps, meaning you only get 36 laps in. you have exactly the same information both ways, so with the problems we have now, we've opted to go for short runs, because we get very useful information at the end of the day, helping us to improve the car all the time. We haven't been able to show it, but I think we're going in the right direction.