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Raikkonen the favourite at Silverstone

Alan Baldwin | July 08, 2005 16:56 IST

Sunday's British Grand Prix can revive Kimi Raikkonen's title challenge, just as last year's race showed that McLaren were back in business.

The Finn, 24 points behind Renault's pacesetter Fernando Alonso with nine races remaining, started on pole position and finished second last year as McLaren emerged from a nightmare start to that Formula One season.

With McLaren now fighting for the championship, he is the clear favourite again.

"Silverstone is usually good for us. We did one test there already this year and we were pretty quick so I think we will have a good week as long as we don't have any problems with the car," he said.

Even if Raikkonen finished only second in last weekend's French Grand Prix won by Alonso, his pace was noted by envious rivals.

Raikkonen would probably have won had he not been penalised 10 places on the starting grid for a blown engine in Friday practice. He still set the third best qualifying lap with much more fuel on board.

He also set the fastest lap on his way from 13th on the grid to second place.

"Aerodynamically, the McLaren is very strong and it (Silverstone) is a very big aero circuit," said BAR's Briton Jenson Button.

"I think we'll see them just walking away with it at Silverstone which is a little bit disappointing but that's the way it is."

The good news for Alonso, who said at the weekend that Renault had put a cross against the British Grand Prix before the season started as one of their more difficult races, is that McLaren do not have it all their own way.

FISICHELLA CONFIDENT

Raikkonen's team mate Juan Pablo Montoya will be disadvantaged by being one of the first out in qualifying after failing to finish in France.

That reduces the likelihood of a McLaren one-two and plays into the hands of Alonso, Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and Button.

While Alonso has said a podium finish is the most he can hope for, having never scored a point at Silverstone up to now, Italian team mate Giancarlo Fisichella is sounding more optimistic.

"I think we will be strong," he said. "When we tested there last month, McLaren also looked very quick so maybe they will be a little bit ahead of us.

"But we have new engine developments for Silverstone, which will give us a boost, and I have always had strong races there in the past."

Schumacher won easily last year in a dominant season for Ferrari, his 10th win in 11 races.

The champion has struggled in 2005, winning only last month's six-car U.S. Grand Prix after the seven Michelin teams withdrew for tyre safety reasons.

"I've always enjoyed driving there, and it's no different this time, although I can't really say how well we'll do there," the German said on his website.

"France was a little misleading in that respect," added Schumacher, who was third at Magny-Cours. "Following our performance on Friday and Saturday I had expected for a little more to be possible there so I'm slightly more cautious in making a prediction on the outcome.

Button, still without a win in 92 starts, believes third place is within his grasp but says he has no chance of winning. "It won't happen, we're not capable of doing that," he said.


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