They ask the questions: Fernando Alonso
In any sporting generation, there's always a star among stars. And in contemporary Formula 1, despite the presence of a Hamilton and a Vettel and a Raikkonen, we have an Alonso. Mighty, redoubtable Fernando Alonso - grilled here, exclusively, by the luminaries of the F1 paddock
Some drivers grant an interview. With Fernando Alonso, regarded near-universally within Formula 1 as the best of his generation, it's an audience. You're aware, in his presence, of his presence.
There is, it must be said, trepidation when he arrives wearing obsidian Oakleys, iPhone clamped to right ear. Its case is bright blue with a golden cross - the Asturias flag of his home region - a symbolic statement, we later learn, of victory. How appropriate for this warrior driver that the local standard should bear the Cruz de la Victoria, the Victory Cross.
The call is ended. The phone placed carefully face down on a white table. Shades off. A smile! A firm, but not clenching, handshake, then a welcome. We're away.
If you never win another world title, how will you feel about retiring from F1, having won only two?
Right now it's tough because I want the third title so much. But if I can't win it and my time comes to retire, there is not so much I can do, so I have to step back to give the opportunity to new people to go in. I know that with time, two titles will be more and more important and I will be extremely proud, even if now I always want more and I am always hungry for success. I know that they will have a huge value when I retire, even if I have two, three or whatever.
F1R: But winning three is still a big thing?
F1R: So winning a third title is, in fact, a big part of your motivation? Or are you motivated enough anyway?
FA: I feel motivated anyway, but it's true that I have been so close to a third title on a few occasions that it's part of the motivation as well, to keep going and to achieve it.
Why didn't you ever take a week off - and why did you make my life so difficult?!
Rob Smedley[race engineer to Felipe Massa throughout his four years as Alonso's team-mate from 2010-2013]
Well I worked hard, that's for sure! And I still do work hard, but there were tough weekends for both sides of the garage, I think - both for Felipe and Rob and for Andrea [Stella, Alonso's race engineer] and me. We didn't quite have the car that we wanted and we were struggling a little bit. There were some difficult seasons, but at the same time I was extremely proud of the teamwork that we all did together. I've known Rob since F3000, when he was my race engineer, so it has been a long journey and I think that we both achieved many things. It was good fun to spend some time together and we had some good years at Ferrari, even if he was with the other car.
How do you maintain your consistency when your machinery isn't up to your own level of performance?
It's just a case of trying to keep the motivation high, trying to set new targets for every weekend, because the performance you can achieve is different every weekend, so you just need to rrrrrre-adapt [spoken with a particularly fruity rolled 'r'] to that level of performance and achieve what's supposed to be the maximum. [Then a deep exhale and sigh, as if momentarily wearied by the prospect of continued struggle.] You know, I hate losing, so that's enough to keep me motivated - even if it's a battle for sixth and seventh, I would rather be sixth than seventh, so that's enough to keep me motivated.
You're the coolest driver I've ever seen before a race. Are you really that relaxed, or are you just an amazing actor?
Pedro de la Rosa
[Pauses to mull over the question]. I think I am relaxed - and I'm definitely not a good actor! But I am relaxed, yes. I see sometimes some stress and tension around the team and the other people around when a grand prix is about to start, yet normally I am the one trying to keep it cool, trying to give them some confidence that 'guys, we will give the maximum' and that they shouldn't worry about anyone else. We will go out there, we will have a good start, a good strategy and a good pace, and the outcome will depend on many other factors, but not because we missed something, and I am relaxed because of that.