Renault may be bringing along a significant aerodynamic overhaul and stage two of its 'double-decker' diffuser for its underperforming R29 in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, but still former double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso admits that he is expecting 'not much' in front of his partisan supporters.
The man from Oviedo triumphed around the Circuit de Catalunya en route
to the first of his drivers' crowns back in 2005, has mounted the rostrum on three further occasions and stormed to a front row grid slot there this time twelve months ago, but following a dispiriting start to his 2009 challenge – with a scant five points from the opening four 'flyaway' races – he has conceded that he has few hopes of a similar showing this weekend as the European leg of the campaign gets underway.
“I think not much unfortunately,” the 27-year-old replied when asked what he believes he can achieve on home turf. “We will improve the car from the last race, but it is difficult to simulate what the advantage will be. It can be one tenth, it can be two or maybe four but who knows?
“I think in this particular race everyone will introduce new parts on their cars, so everyone [will improve by] these two, four or six tenths or whatever if someone was clever enough. We all will move more-or-less these two or three tenths forward and the positions will remain more-or-less the same.
“Obviously we all test a lot here in the winter-time and we all know the circuit quite well, so it is not a big advantage for me to be at a home track as it is like a home track for everybody. It is a very special race for me, though. The atmosphere here is quite good and I can really feel the support from the grandstands.
“Every year we come here it is something special, and this year I think it will be the same. The whole team is giving 120 per cent every race but here 130 per cent as it is good for everybody, also the mechanics – everyone in the team is quite well-supported here.”
Alonso lost a staggering 5.5kg over the course of the Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir just under a fortnight ago due to a radiator problem inside his car that sent hot gas into the cockpit and caused him to burn his back against the seat – leading to him nearly fainting at the end of the race. It may be an extreme example, but for a 21-time grand prix-winner it was fairly symptomatic of what has thus far been a crushingly disappointing season.
“I think when we finished winter testing in Jerez we were quite optimistic,” he contended. “All winter we were more-or-less competitive; we knew in terms of pace and lap times what the others were doing and we were very comfortable with our pace and with our car. The balance of the car was good. We did not have big problems, so we arrived in Australia really convinced that we were ready to fight for podium positions and things like that and it was not the case.
“It was a surprise how competitive some other teams were in Australia. We knew that Brawn were quick in the last two tests, but Red Bull [and] Williams – we really thought that they were behind us. We started improving the car from Australia – we introduced a new package in China, some new parts also in Bahrain, some new parts here as well. We are trying to catch up, but I think we were expecting a little bit more from the first four races, as only five points are not enough for the championship battle.”