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Alonso refuses to be rattled
Alan Baldwin | August 03, 2006 15:35 IST
Even with Michael Schumacher looking increasingly menacing in a title fight that threatens to go down to the wire, world champion Fernando Alonso refuses to be rattled.
The Renault driver is confident he can take the fight to Ferrari in Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix after being eclipsed by his Formula One rival in Germany last weekend for the third race in succession.
"I don't think we will see a repeat of what happened in Germany," Alonso, now just 11 points clear of Schumacher with six races remaining, said in a team preview.
"Personally, I am calm and I know the team has been working hard to understand what happened.
"The tyres in Hungary are very different to what we need in Germany, and Michelin have reacted to the problems as well," added the 25-year-old Spaniard, fifth in Hockenheim on severely blistered tyres.
"People are talking about Michael closing in, but I was never over-confident when I was leading - and I am not panicking now. I am confident we can have a strong race."
Alonso can point to his breakthrough win at the Hungaroring in 2003, when he became the youngest driver to win a Formula One race, for psychological support.
Yet while the memory of that success still burns bright, he will not want too much reminding of last year's race at the Budapest circuit where he was lapped and finished 11th.
This is a race that Alonso needs to win, to break Schumacher's run of form and rebuild morale at a key point in the season.
"Hearing people write us off this year has only strengthened our resolve," said Renault's chief strategist Pat Symonds. "We will be doing everything in our power to turn the tables on Sunday."
Even if Hungary 2005 marks the last time he failed to score a point, Alonso also took strength from that race.
"It shows how quickly things can turn around in Formula One, because one week earlier I had won in Germany," he said.
"It will be a different picture this year I think, and the V8 engines and softer tyres will mean we are much quicker in the corners. I am expecting a good race, and there is no reason why Renault cannot come out on top."
Alonso also has an improving McLaren, the team he is joining next season, to worry about.
Kimi Raikkonen, last year's winner in Hungary, was third in Hockenheim and is celebrating his 100th grand prix start this weekend.
However it is Schumacher, holder of the circuit lap record and the only driver to have won four times in Hungary, who remains the man to beat.
"Our chances are pretty good, even though I'm usually careful in saying things like that beforehand," the 37-year-old said on his web site. "I don't think we will be quite as dominant as last race. But we don't have to be.
"The most important thing is staying focused and keeping our goals in mind."
Formula One history will be made elsewhere on the starting grid when Robert Kubica, replacing Canadian Jacques Villeneuve at BMW Sauber, makes his debut as the first Polish driver to start a Grand Prix.
Pole position could take on a whole new meaning.
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