Fernando Alonso has admitted that he is being driven to greater lengths by the anticipation of the support he will receive at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.
star acknowledges the lift he receives from the home support at the Circuit de Catalunya
– where stands are regularly decked out in a combination of red-and-yellow Spanish flags and the pale blue colours of his native Asturias – and says that it provides extra push to find the smallest improvement.
Alonso's home race has been both rewarding and emotional but, at the same time, is very demanding for the national hero. From his first Spanish Grand Prix
in 2001, when he finished 13th for Minardi, Alonso has enjoyed no fewer than six podiums in Barcelona, including three popular victories, with the 2006 success - en route
to his second world title – a stand-out memory, coming as it did in front of the King Juan Carlos.
In his three races at the Circuit de Catalunya
for Ferrari, Alonso's tally stands at two podiums and a fifth place, despite having led the race early on in each of the last two years, and he is keen to amend that record this season as title rival Sebastian Vettel
threatens to pull away at the head of the standings.
“The wins at Barcelona in 2006, Monza in 2010 and Valencia last year are unquestionably the races that have given me the best emotions of my career,” Alonso noted, “But the warmth of the fans and the feeling you get when you race in Spain are always special, from the moment you arrive at the airport and you head to the hotel and the circuit.
“From the first laps on the track on Friday and Saturday morning, you can immediately feel the passion of the fans in the grandstands and that sparks off extra motivation because you want to do that little bit extra to make sure they can celebrate. That's how the search begins for that elusive tenth of a second of performance that you are always seeking when you're in a F1 car.”
Ironically, current team-mate Felipe Massa has
to victory in Barcelona, having triumphed there while Alonso was plying his trade at a rival team, and the Brazilian acknowledges what the crowd brings to the event.
“I really like going to Spain,” Massa admits, “I've always liked both the feel of Barcelona itself and the atmosphere at the track during the race weekend. My best memory came in 2007 when I won the race. It was a great victory in front of a fantastic crowd that saw me fight with many opponents – including Fernando, who was then at McLaren.”
Massa generally has a good record at the Catalan track, having taken pole position to go with his victory in 2007 and returned to the podium the following year, finishing second behind then team-mate Kimi Raikkonen
in the last of the four 1-2s the Scuderia has secured in the Spanish Grand Prix.
He arrives in Barcelona this weekend, however, on the back of Ferrari's worst showing of 2013, having missed the points after a fraught race in Bahrain.
“Obviously, I'm not happy with my last race,” he insisted, “The Circuit de Catalunya
is the track that we know best thanks to all the tests that we do there at the start of the year, so I hope to be able to get back to fighting for the top places this weekend.”