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Alonso eyes F1 title
Alan Baldwin |
July 28, 2005 13:20 IST
Last Updated: July 28, 2005 13:35 IST
Renault's Fernando Alonso could find himself in seventh heaven on Sunday at his favourite Hungarian circuit.
Two years ago, as a 22-year-old, the Spaniard made Formula One history at the Hungaroring as the youngest Grand Prix winner.
He said then that he wanted to be the youngest champion as well and this time he returns to celebrate his 24th birthday on Friday knowing that his ambition is close to fruition.
Alonso has won six of the season's 12 races so far and, with a 36 point lead, a seventh triumph could put the championship almost within his grasp.
Even if team boss Flavio Briatore has warned the team against 'doing a Milan', reminding them of the Italians who lost the Champions League final to Liverpool after being 3-0 ahead at half-time, Alonso will be hard to beat.
"Hungary has always been one of my favourite racetracks," he said after winning in Germany last weekend following yet another agonising retirement for McLaren title rival Kimi Raikkonen while leading.
"I think with this year's car it should be a good opportunity for us to be on the podium and hopefully beat McLaren, but at the moment they are the quickest."
Even if Raikkonen has more pace, it will count for far less at the second slowest circuit on the calendar and one where it is also notoriously difficult to overtake.
The Finn also has a disadvantage in qualifying: "I will be going out first so will be affected by the dusty track, but the car is quick and I will push hard," he said.
"I always enjoy Hungary as there is a really good atmosphere because of all the Finns [who] come down to the race. It is like a home Grand Prix for me and I hope I can give the thousands of Finnish fans something to cheer about."
Hungary should suit the Renault but Alonso will have to watch out for Raikkonen's Colombian team mate Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished second in Hockenheim.
Should Montoya make full amends for his German qualifying nightmare and plant his McLaren on pole, the Colombian could well race off into the distance.
That would not greatly trouble Alonso, who can think strategically and need only really worry about Raikkonen. But Renault do need every constructors' point, with McLaren 22 behind them.
Tyres will again be the key to success at a race that is often run in very hot conditions.
"Lots of traction and high temperatures don't go well together. We need to look after the rear tyres in particular," said Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella. "I am sure the car will be very quick there and we have good qualifying positions. I am feeling optimistic."
Less so is Ferrari's seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, who last year took a record 12th win of the season in Hungary and cemented the team's sixth successive constructors' title.
"Following our performance during the last couple of weeks, it will probably not be an easy Grand Prix," said the German, who has already conceded that his title is lost after slipping 40 points adrift of Alonso.
"It's not realistic to expect any big progress in performance."
Sunday's race will also mark a watershed, with EU anti-tobacco legislation coming into force. For McLaren, Hungary will be a farewell to cigarette brand West as title sponsor.