This year’s Brazilian Grand Prix will be the tenth anniversary of Fernando Alonso’s first drivers’ title for Renault. After a hard-fought year, the Spaniard sealed his first-ever crown with a podium at Interlagos, becoming the youngest World Champion (at the time). It was also Renault’s first title since 1997 and the first as Renault F1 Team.
Rémi Taffin, Fernando’s engine engineer in Brazil, recounts a stressful weekend:
‘In 2005 we had produced a good car and had performed well, winning six Grands Prix in the first part of the year with Fernando and one more with Giancarlo [Fisichella]. But it had been a very competitive season and McLaren were very strong.
‘By the time we arrived in Brazil at the end of September, Fernando and Kimi Raikkonen were still both in contention for the drivers’ title. Due to the good start to the season we knew that Fernando just needed a podium to win, but we didn’t take anything for granted as the McLarens were getting better and better. In fact they had won all of the races since Germany at the end of July, so we were under a lot of pressure.
‘As a team we were quite young. Over half the Renault personnel from Viry had never won a championship, or been in contention for one, and of course the Viry-Enstone partnership was still relatively new. But there were still a number of ex-Benetton mechanics and engineers who had known the glory days of Schumacher in the 1990s so they helped to settle our nerves and motivate us when we had doubts. Nevertheless I remember we were conservative in the garage, to the point of being paranoid. I think I must have checked everything at least three times…
‘The weekend started well when we got pole for Fernando. He converted it into the lead, but he didn’t hold it for long as both the McLarens got past. From that point on we knew we needed to hold position to win, so it was about being safe, not taking risks and getting to the end. It seemed to take an eternity! The race went well with no particular problems, and Fernando did a great job to keep focused, despite the huge amounts of radio chatter going on. He filtered the information he needed and he got the podium to take the title. The podium was great – very well natured and the comments between Kimi and Fernando afterwards showed how much respect they had for each other.
‘Naturally there was a bit of a party after the race. After we got back to France we had a celebration but it was quickly back to work as the constructors’ championship was still up for grabs and very tight. We needed to see it through – and then celebrate after China!’