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Alonso stays calm after Hungary setback
August 01, 2005 13:37 IST
Renault's Fernando Alonso kept his head up after McLaren rival Kimi Raikkonen bit a sizeable chunk out of his Formula One lead in Hungary.
Despite Renault's failure to score points in a race dominated by the Finn, now 26 points behind the Spaniard with six races remaining, Alonso knows he is still the clear championship favourite.
July, a key month with four races in close succession, had been good to him.
"We started this month with a 22 points lead and we end it with 26 and four races less (to do)," said Alonso, who has won six of the 13 Grands Prix so far but finished 11th on Sunday. "The balance is very good.
"Here it was our turn to suffer... Now it's time to rest, to prepare the final sprint, and we've got a good advantage."
Hungary was Raikkonen's fourth win of the season and the Finn has 61 points to the Spaniard's 87.
The Finn is up for the fight, vowing to turn the screw on a man who left Budapest empty-handed after his 24th birthday but remains on course to become Formula One's youngest champion.
However, Raikkonen's triumph could not mask the fact that the Mercedes-powered team had missed yet another gilt-edged opportunity.
With Renault struggling, and Alonso hobbled by a poor tyre choice and a first corner tangle with Ralf Schumacher, McLaren should have finished one-two.
They could have slashed Renault's lead in the constructors' standings to four points. Instead it shrank to 12 after Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya retired with a driveshaft failure while leading.
Only once this season, despite having clearly the quickest car, have McLaren managed to get their two drivers on the podium together.
By the time they gather again in Turkey on August 21, it will have been five years since former champion Mika Hakkinen led David Coulthard across the line in the last McLaren one-two finish in Austria in 2000.
"We've had lots of good days but not the perfect day," conceded McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh.
"The perfect day is a one-two with no points for Renault and that was very much within our grasp so it's frustrating. We should have been solidly banging in the points for the last 10 races now.
"But we're still improving the car and the engine, we've still got development packages, we're getting stronger there, but we've got to make sure we nail these reliability issues."
Raikkonen has seen three wins disappear before his eyes after retiring in the lead while Montoya could also have hoped for more than the one win in Britain last month.
"We are going to finish the season strongly, we're going to win plenty more grands prix," said Whitmarsh.
"Renault's done a good job and it's going to be tough to beat them but I think (Hungary) was a good step closer and we'll keep trying."
He predicted a close battle ahead, with the championship probably going down to the wire at least as far as the constructors' title was concerned.
"Certainly we're not going to romp away with it unfortunately but I think we're capable, with the performance we've got and the drivers we have, to just keep clawing away at their wounds," he said.
"The constructors' is clearly easier than the drivers' but both are possible."