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Alonso has a date with destiny
Alan Baldwin | September 24, 2005 17:20 IST
Fernando Alonso has a date with destiny in Brazil on Sunday and will be a worthy successor to Ferrari's Michael Schumacher as Formula One world champion.
So says Pat Symonds, the Renault engineering head and tactician who worked with both Schumacher and the late Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna.
Spaniard Alonso, the 24-year-old who has led the championship since his victory in Malaysia in March, needs six points to become the sport's youngest champion.
He leads McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen by 25 points with two races remaining after Brazil, meaning that he can settle for third place at Interlagos.
Symonds was unstinting in his praise of the youngster.
"He really is excellent. That may be a bit of a glib statement, because you do expect me to say that, but I have worked with many champions before and he has many of the same characteristics," he said.
"I think the thing that is surprising, and is a real compliment to him, is that one forgets his age because the maturity he shows is well beyond his age -- even the time he has been in Formula One, which is not long.
"You just forget about it. It is like you are dealing with a guy who has a destiny, he knows that destiny and he is totally comfortable with it."
Symonds, who worked with Schumacher at Benetton when the German won his first two championships in 1994 and 1995, said there are obvious similarities between the young Spaniard and Formula One's most successful driver.
"He is a very intelligent guy, he is particularly good at reading a race, looking after equipment, in the same way that Michael is," he said.
"He knows when to go fast and when to reel it back a bit. He has a very good understanding of the tactics and what needs to be done in the race. And he enjoys it. And I think that is always refreshing."
"If he achieves the championship, as we hope and expect, he will I think thoroughly deserve to take Michael's crown."
Schumacher, who has won seven titles, has been champion since 2000 but was ruled out of contention mathematically at the Italian Grand Prix this month.
Alonso made his debut with Minardi in 2001 and has won six races this year, the same number as Raikkonen.
Possibly the key moment, one that may come to symbolise the passing of a torch from one champion to another, was the San Marino Grand Prix in April.
Alonso held off Schumacher, whose faster Ferrari was just inches from the Renault and who was desperately trying to force an error to find a way past, until the chequered flag in a superb display of defensive driving.
"I think champion drivers are just like champions in any sport, they have this incredible self esteem, self confidence and this ability to set themselves targets," said Symonds.
"They are realistic but difficult to achieve targets but they achieve them time and time again and that is what I see with Fernando and it is equally what I have seen in other Formula One world champions."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage