Alonso focusing on title run, not Monza mess
SHANGHAI, China -- Fernando Alonso has a temporary memory lapse -- on purpose -- but he will never forget.
Alonso is still smarting from what he feels was an unjust and contrived penalty against him at the Italian Grand Prix. But he has put it out of his mind so that he can concentrate on this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix and on the last three races of the season as he battles with Michael Schumacher for the championship.
"I put it out of my head for this race and for the rest of the championship," Alonso said. "But I will not put it out of my head in my career or in my life, never.
"What happened in Monza will always be there, but for the fight in the championship you forget, and you beat the others in the track if you can, and if not, you do the maximum."
What happened in Monza was the decision by race officials that Alonso had impeded the qualifying lap of Schumacher's Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa.
The officials penalized Alonso by dropping him from fifth to 10th on the starting grid. Schumacher, meanwhile, was second in the lineup.
The cynical view was that things were being manipulated to close up the championship between leader Alonso and Schumacher. In the end, a blown engine for Alonso did just that, and his 12-point advantage has shrunk to only two points.
At the time, Alonso said F1 was no longer a sport. And, three weeks later, he still maintains that position.
"I think the same," he said. "If I said it or when I say something, it is because I think that. It is not because I am angry or whatever. It is because I feel that. Many people feel that. But nobody said it.
"It is my job, it is my life, F1, and I enjoy so much driving the car, but when I came here still thinking the same. In the other categories there is the sport, and here there is a little bit of everything."
Alonso was talking with reporters from various outlets, including ESPN.com, at the Shanghai International Circuit before the first day of practice for the Chinese Grand Prix.
If F1 is not a sport, what does Alonso think it is?
"It's a big show for everybody," he said. "A lot of TV coverage, a lot of money involved in F1, TV rights, sponsors, everything and the driver is part of the show."
When he said F1 is not a sport, is Alonso suggesting there are other factors influencing the results?
"Not the results," he said, "but there are always things happening that never happened in the other categories of motor sports."
Alonso insists that he keeps his emotions out of the cockpit of his Renault. He says he drove a cool and collected race in Italy (at least until his engine expired).
"I was angry there," he said, "and disappointed and frustrated, for sure, but I still have the same feeling now, frustration and disappointment. I don't carry anything in my normal day, and I don't carry anything in the car."
How will the frustrations and disappointments at Monza affect him here in China?
"Nothing at all," he insisted. "As I said, there are things you never forget, but when you arrive at the next Grand Prix, you approach the weekend, you go into the program about the setup tests you will do, the tire selection, the qualifying, the performance, the fuel load there are too many things going on to remember anything from the last race. It will not affect anything.
"Everyone has different feelings going in, and different problems, but when you drive the car you forget everything."
Alonso does not believe there will be any problems with alleged blocking or any other interference in China because the track is much wider than Monza.
"It is very wide," he said, "so it is very easy to avoid accidents and strange maneuvers. So it will be quite a smooth race and no problems."
As for the race and the championship battle, Alonso is brimming with confidence.
"I am very confident, as always, but sometimes things go well, sometimes not," he said. "For the last three races we should be very competitive, and the car is really maximum performance now with no problems. We should be very quick. Now it is up to us and up to Ferrari to decide who is the quickest."
And once they have decided who is quickest and who will be champion, Alonso can start remembering that very unjust, in his view, penalty at the Italian Grand Prix.
Dan Knutson covers Formula One for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.