It's no secret Fernando Alonso hasn't had the best of luck with cars. And anyone who follows F1 will know the two-time world champion had a rather frustrating year in 2015. Racing for McLaren Honda with disappointing results, it's obvious that the 2016 season is the Spaniard's opportunity to start anew. Off the back of a new partnership announcement with Chandon, McLaren-Honda teammates (and yes, professional rivals) Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were on hand in Melbourne's Yarra Valley for a press conference and partnership launch yesterday. We had to time to sit down with Alonso for a quick chat about race hopes, rivalry and predictions for the 2016 Grand Prix.
What's your training regime like leading into the season?
Well we've now had a couple of months more or less free to do some preparation. Mainly all the sport activities that we do are for cardio. So a lot of running, a lot of cycling, swimming and then we do the gym. [We work] the upper body - especially the neck muscles - which are the most important for the driver. During the year it starts to get a lot more difficult with the travelling, with all the things we have to do. We try to maintain that fitness over the winter, I try to sleep well and relax - that's the best preparation I can do, before any physical activity.
How important is the rivalry between you and Jenson?
It is important - and it comes naturally. It's not something that we need to do on purpose. I think with Formula 1, the battle between teammates is something important because at the end of the day, it's the only car that's exactly the same as yours when you are on the track. It is always a higher value when you finish the championship or you finish the race in front of your teammate, in front of everyone's eyes. It's good for the team, we push each other hard and Jenson is obviously a world champion and a very talented driver and he gives me the motivation to never relax. And I think with him it is the same and the benefit is only for the team.
You've had some troubles with cars in previous season - how do you think the new car is going to go this season?
I think we need to wait and see on the first couple of races, after the testing we are still not in the place we wanted to be. There are still a lot of things to improve. In a way we are happy with the baseline we have and I think we have the package now where we can push and unlock some of the performance. Last year, we couldn't do it because of the limitations on how the power unit was designed - that was a big factor. This year, even if we are not super competitive now, I think we have the ingredients to be competitive later on in the season.
Do you try to compete with Jenson off the track?
No, not really. Outside the circuit, with your teammates or even with the other drivers - there is a completely different behaviour and way to respect each other, which is very friendly.
Do you have any superstitions or rituals that you go through before a race?
In the past, maybe I had some. [Like] wearing the same helmet that brought me luck in one race, [especially] if it was a special location or a special race for me, but in the last couple of years I don't.
What do you think your future is?
I don't know really - as long as I enjoy racing - that's the key factor. Once you don't enjoy what you do it is quite difficult. Right now, I have this year and the next one with McLaren under contract so for at least two more years I will stay around. Next year there will be a regulation change with Formula 1 which should [make the cars] around five seconds faster so that will play a big factor in my decision for the future. If I enjoy those cars and they feel good to drive, I could stay longer. If the cars are not fun to drive and I don't enjoy it... I could stop.
How was your pre-season testing?
Some up and downs. As with all the teams, first of all, we have very limited days of testing. We have four days for each driver. So I've been in the car four days only and now I start the world championship - it's a very unique sport in that aspect! [laughs]. It's the same for everybody which is one positive thing. With the car, we understood some of the concepts are positive and some of them were negative so they need a little bit more time to develop, but I think that's [the same for] the whole team - some up and downs. Now it's time to put everything together and perform and a deliver a great result on the first race. We'll see what we can do.
What does it mean to have a sponsor like Chandon?
It means a lot to the team. We work in a really competitive and popular sport and we like to share our adventure with the best partners. They're best in their sector, and this year we are a better position compared to last year so we are happy to give back some nice results and good coverage.
The 2016 Melbourne Grand Prix starts today. Click here for our recommendations on what to eat and drink in Melbourne this weekend.