Ahead of the Rolex Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend, Chandon celebrated the second year of it’s partnership with the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 team at Domaine Chandon featuring the team’s two stars, Spanish racing icon and double-world champion Fernando Alonso and one of F1’s hottest new prospects, Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne. Chandon filmed a unique video starring Fernando and Stoffel within the grounds of the picturesque Domaine Chandon winery that will be unveiled just before the big race. The video follows the success of last year’s video featuring Fernando and former McLaren-Honda teammate and Formula 1 Champion, Jenson Button in ‘A Friendly Race‘ which was also filmed at the winery.
Couturing sat down with Fernando and Stoffel to find out what it’s like being an F1 driver, what happens behind the scenes and what they’ve been up to ahead of the big race on Sunday.
Welcome back to Melbourne Fernando and Stoffel! You’ve been here in Melbourne for a couple of days now, what have you been up to since you arrived?
Fernando: The last couple of days I have been getting over the jet lag and timezone difference. It’s a big change in timezone and weather and I’ve been training at the gym, walking around Melbourne and I also went to the beach on Sunday because it was good day.
Stoffel: I’m really enjoying Melbourne. I arrived on Sunday and have spent the last couple of days acclimatising. I’ve been actually training to adjust the body to the timezone we’re in.
What have you been doing today at Domaine Chandon?
Fernando: It’s been a good day here and it’s a very special and beautiful place here at Domaine Chandon. Together with Chandon we’ve been shooting a special video that you will hopefully see soon!
Stoffel: It’s my first visit here to Domaine Chandon and I know that Fernando and Jenson were here last year and did this filming. I’ve seen what they did and we’ve been filming something similar today. It’s a great initiative to have a film and it’s beautiful to have the vineyards here. To work together with Chandon and come here has been fantastic.
It must be nice working with a sparkling wine brand like Chandon, what can you tell us about the partnership?
Fernando: I think it’s one of those partners that the team has that you are proud of and obviously we share some of the values such as innovation and we’re always trying to beat our opponents. On the track, McLaren-Honda are trying to beat the other teams and Chandon is also a leader in the wine sector and innovating new wine. We’re enjoying the partnership very much.
Stoffel: This is the second year of the partnership with Chandon and it’s great to work with them. I think the vision of Chandon and McLaren-Honda is very similar – they’re very much advanced in both their businesses. We try to be advanced in the racing business and Chandon are exceptional in the wine and sparkling business. It’s a good combination.
The life of an F1 driver looks glamorous in front of the camera and on the track, but behind the scenes, how much work goes into preparing for race season and each Grand Prix?
Fernando: We prepare ourselves physically for the car. It’s obviously very demanding and the G-forces and strength to deal with in the F1 car are experiences that no one really has in life! We’re used to it given the many years in karts and Formula 1. If a normal person went in the F1 car they would only last a few laps because they can’t deal with the pressures and the G-forces. We train and prepare ourselves to deal with those aspects of the car and the race. It’s not only driving at a race on a Sunday, it’s 365 day dedication to the sport.
Stoffel: Yes, it looks very glamorous from the outside. From the inside it’s actually very, very hard work. I spend a lot of time at the McLaren factory in the UK and do a lot of work with the engineers, I am part of technical meetings and I’ve involved in the marketing and PR activities, so we’re never really sitting still once the season gets started. We get a break over Christmas and the new year but once the season starts it’s full on and we’re travelling from one place to another.
Fernando, as a two time world champion, it must be great to be at the top of your sport. What does it feel like to be a world champion because there aren’t that many others that share that title?
You work from a child age to become best in the world. When you achieve it’s fantastic, once you achieve it once, you want to do it again and again, and I want to win on Sunday!
Stoffel, you started karting at the age of 6 and made your F1 debut last year at the Bahrain Grand Prix (filling in for Jenson Button). What was it like in your first F1 race?
First of it all, it was a great opportunity to drive in a Grand Prix. It was something I really enjoyed and it was also a chance to prove my capabilities. It was a very good race as I scored a point for the team.
Stoffel, you’re the replacement for Jenson Button as the full time F1 driver for the McLaren Honda team in 2017, what are you looking forward to in your first season in F1?
I think I’m looking at it as a whole as it’s my first season as a fully fledged driver. This is something I’ve been looking forward to as a kid so I’m really excited.
Do you follow a strict diet regime and fitness regime?
Stoffel: F1 drivers are some of the fittest athletes and we have very specific training programs. The team pushes us to be the lightest as possible because the cars have to be a specific weight. It’s a tough program but we love what we do!
The film of Fernando and Stoffel in an unexpected race can be viewed on the Chandon Australia Facebook page (@Chandonaus) from Sunday 26th March.
For more information on Chandon and the winery, Domaine Chandon, visit www.chandon.com.au
For more information on Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne and the McLaren-Honda team visit www.mclaren.com/formula1/team/