Double world champion Fernando Alonso has revealed that he 'loves' the pressure and weight of expectation of racing for the most famous team in F1 history, asserting that 'the bigger the pressure is...the more comfortable I feel' – as Bernie Ecclestone confessed that the Spaniard would form one half of his ideal driver line-up in the top flight.
Alonso currently sits a close and challenging fourth in the F1 2010 title standings heading into the ninth race on the calendar this weekend, the European Grand Prix on home turf in Valencia. Having competed there in the previous two editions with a car at Renault undeserving of his talents – and as such being yet to better sixth place around the Spanish city's harbourside streets – the Oviedo native insists that he is relishing the prospect of heading into the race this time around as one of the hot favourites.
“I love this pressure,” he underlined, in a joint interview with Ecclestone on the official F1 website. “I love the feeling to [have to] absolutely deliver performance. I love starting the race as the favourite. This is why it was particularly difficult for me in the last two seasons at Renault. To know after qualifying that you are at best eighth or ninth is not really my thing. This is why I prefer being in this situation now. The bigger the pressure is, the more people expect from me – and the more comfortable I feel.
“It makes me very proud to be part of Ferrari's history, but I also feel a big responsibility being a Ferrari driver. Ferrari has the biggest fan base all over the globe, and this is unbelievable. I know that I have to deliver the performance – but I am absolutely ready to do so. I have the impression that people enjoy this combination (himself and Ferrari) worldwide. Especially in Spain and Italy, the vibe is very enthusiastic and this makes me very proud – the Italian and Spanish mentalities are much alike, and also the lifestyle. Both of us have the same passion for racing. You could say that two have come together who have belonged together for a long time.
“The rumours that we would join forces had been there for years anyway, and when I left McLaren at the end of 2007 it was already in my head that I wanted to be a Ferrari driver at some point in time. This was my goal. I did not exactly have the best time at McLaren, [but] the history of F1 shows clearly that Ferrari and McLaren are the strongest teams. To make my career perfect I knew that I had to go to Ferrari. At the beginning it was just a dream, but last summer the critical meetings were put in-place to make this dream come true. After that, everything went really quickly and I did not let this incredible opportunity pass me by.
“[There is a] huge passion to work for Ferrari; you can feel it in every single person working for the company – all of them love Ferrari. If you visit the headquarters in Maranello, you can literally feel and inhale this passion. All of them love to be in the factory at 8am; all of them enjoy seeing a Ferrari on the street, as we all know that we have contributed to this very passion. My goal [is to finish my F1 career with Ferrari]. I want to bring the performance, always give the maximum and triumph in the end, as long and as often as possible.”
Ecclestone, for his part, is under no illusions that the 22-time grand prix-winner will prove capable of doing just that over the years to-come – and the sport's influential commercial rights-holder even goes as far as to suggest that the most successful driver of the modern era could go on to challenge the outstanding record of the legendary Michael Schumacher at the Scuderia
“There is a big difference between Michael and Fernando,” the British billionaire cautioned. “When Michael was with Ferrari, he barely had any rivals. The usual procedure in these years was that Michael got pole and won the race, but take a look at Fernando's opponents today – both Red Bull drivers, both McLaren drivers – and Fernando can get pole position and win the race. The competition is far bigger, so you cannot really compare the two situations.
“Fernando is very much a typical Ferrari driver. He is a fighter with a lion's heart and has a passion for competing and racing – this simply fits. Let's be frank – there is no driver on the grid who does not have the dream of being a Ferrari driver at some point in time. I am sure about this, as Ferrari transmits this very special vibe, but for sure, the pressure on the drivers is much bigger than anywhere else. Of course [Alonso] wanted to win at Renault, too, but the passion [of] driving for Ferrari, the immense pressure to deliver the performance – isn't this exactly what a driver wants to experience once in his career?