Those were Mark Webber’s words describing Alonso yesterday. This weekend he’ll really have to be because Michael is on fire at the moment and although these things probably mean nothing these days Alonso has never won in Japan and Michael has won there seven times.
That’s not the only thing in Michael’s favour. The Bridgestones and Ferrari always do well here. But the story is really about the chances Renault are simply giving away.
As we know in the run up to the race Alonso has dissed his own team for not supporting him enough which is likely to cause him more problems not less. Renault have also attempted a re-gig of the pit crew which is particularly dangerous coming as it does in a week where there’s not really been any testing time. And finally Flavio Briatore has come in to diffuse the situation – which is not necessarily the best strategy the world has ever seen.
In Flavio’s press release he says that he’s sorted everything out, cleared the air, and made everything fine. That he’s made it clear to Alonso that everyone is behind him and made it clear to the team that Alonso is behind them too. But then he couldn’t help but slip in a detail saying firstly that it was the teams fault about the wheel nut in Hungary which probably has pissed of the team a bit. And then this quote from him about China, “It was impossible to keep Fisi behind and hold Michael [Schumacher]. You guys saw the race. We never expected the graining, and we changed the tyre only because it was requested by the driver.” So China’s tyre thing was Alonso’s fault – that’s what Briatore slipped in. Up until this point that too had been a team decision. So with Flav’s own form of diffusion well and truly on the warpath I’m sure Renault are going to have some trouble working cohesively which is exactly what they don’t need at this point. All they need now is a choice comment from Ferrari, something like “we would never reveal whose decision it was to change a tyre and we think it’s very unfair of Renault to do such a thing to their driver” and there will be a full scale blow up.
So with what’s going wrong at Renault lets look at the positives. They were really unlucky in China. Fair play to Michael he made that race work for him and I don’t want to diminish that one bit however there were a variety of chances which Renault couldn’t or didn’t exploit last weekend which were mainly luck or bad decision making rather than having a slower car. Which means these are things you should be able to fix in a single week (at least if you are talking about them you should). There is a strong chance of wet weather again in Japan and the Bridgestone still has problems in the wet. The other aspect of this is that the Bridgestone wet weather trick is out of the bag now and there is no way that Pat Symonds at Renault didn’t notice. The Bridgestones don’t work as well at the Michelans in the wet, but work better than the Michelans in a drying line after time. They clearly hold themselves together better, and detierate less. This is the reason that Michael was able to pull himself up to sixth. His mega middle qualifying session was all him just being amazing, but once he was in the final session he ran down one set of tyres and everyone went out and helped him dry the racing line. And a very similar situation happened in the race.
The problem for Michael is that once people know that this is the only way his tyres can operate then that means they know exactly what his strategy will be. That’s the kind of information you don’t really want to have given away to somebody like Pat.
The bottom line is this, Michael and Alonso are determined to win. And this two race championship is about to begin. Michael could win the World Championship on Sunday. But it’s just possible that he’s already won it psychologically.
The only little fly in the ointment of the two great men is a certain Kimi Raikkonen. We know he’s fast in Suzuka lest we forget he won the race from 17th place last year. And we know that McLaren was flying last week before it fell apart – again. So if Kimi manages to get some selotape past the scrutineers then he might be in with a chance of winning the race.