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No hard feelings, says beaten Raikkonen
Alan Baldwin | September 26, 2005 11:11 IST
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen has warned Renault's newly-crowned Formula One champion Fernando Alonso to expect a closer fight next year.
The Finn, now 23 points adrift of the Spaniard with a maximum of 20 to be won from the last two races, offered congratulations to his 24-year-old rival after Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix.
"This is never nice but congratulations to Fernando for winning it, he definitely deserved it.
"But he better be prepared for me and the team to fight him hard for the rest of the season and next year," added Raikkonen, who also lost out in the 2003 championship when he finished two points behind Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.
Both drivers have won six races this year but Alonso has enjoyed far greater reliability, also making just one mistake in 17 Grands Prix.
The points he racked up early in the year, when McLaren misfired, left him too far ahead to be caught when the Mercedes-powered team hit their stride.
"It was fantastic for me and for him, the competition," Alonso recognised.
"I think thanks to Kimi this world title is much better for me because Michael [Schumacher] had some problems with the Ferrari this year and to beat the McLarens and especially Kimi this year was extremely difficult.
"As we saw in the last part of the championship, it's impossible to win the race when they have no problems so to beat Kimi this year probably [means] more than [beating] Michael in the last couple of years."
McLaren have now won the last five races but Raikkonen has had to contend also with team mate Juan Pablo Montoya's return to form.
"Apologies to Kimi and Juan Pablo for the missed opportunities this season," said team boss Ron Dennis, whose team are now leaders in the constructors' championship by two points from Renault.
"Congratulations to Fernando and I'm sure he will be a worthy world champion. Now he has to raise his game as he faces a significant challenge to beat us in the remaining races."
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