x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Alonso relishing the challenge of the new rules and technology

While the Red Bull Racing duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have criticised some of the innovations, Alonso is of the belief teams must adapt.

MELBOURNE // Sunday's Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park will mark the beginning of a new era for Formula One, according to Fernando Alonso, the two-time world champion.

The introduction of quick-wearing tyres, driver-controlled aerodynamics and button-operated energy recovery systems means teams will have plenty of options to consider this season. But while the Red Bull Racing duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel — the reigning world champion — have criticised some of the innovations, Alonso is of the belief teams must adapt.

"For sure, it is a new way of doing the races in terms of the strategy, so let's say a new Formula One is starting here in Melbourne," Ferrari's Spanish driver said.

"I think everyone will have a different opinion, but in my case I don't think there is a particular problem with the new rules or the things we need to do with the steering wheel.

"They are a part of our job, we are professional drivers and we need to understand between us and our teams the most comfortable way of using the new things. If you have no time to do all the things on the steering wheel, you don't do it, it's not a mandatory thing."

Unsurprisingly for a man who arrived at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last November leading the championship only to lose it after a poor strategic call from his team, Alonso is desperate to get back behind the wheel and forget the disappointment of Yas Marina Circuit.

"From the last race of last year it has been a lot of months," he said. "The extra 15 days with the Bahrain cancellation was not the best thing, so finally we are racing again and we are very happy to be here."

Ironically, Alonso intimated race tactics could be more important than ever. He also added he and Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa are best placed to benefit having racked up the highest mileage during winter testing.

The Italian team completed almost 7,000 kilometres, more than 800 more than nearest rival Red Bull.

Massa agreed with his teammate's prediction. "We will have many more pit stops as tyre degradation is higher," the Brazilian driver said. "Strategy will be even more important and we will have to have good strategy if we are to have a good race.

"But we are the team who did the most kilometres. We saw many days cars running 60 laps, cars having many problems, we were doing minimum 100 laps every day, so that is a positive."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae