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Alonso seeks home hat-trick
July 13, 2006 11:55 IST
After winning two of his home races, in Spain and Britain, Renault's Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso can complete the hat-trick in France this weekend.
"The French guys in the team, they are extra motivated and excited for their home Grand Prix," said the 24-year-old Spaniard, who lives in Britain, on his return to Europe after two races in North America.
"So that's my focus -- to do better than ever for them, and concentrate on winning in France for our team, for Renault, and for [French tyre and fuel partners] Michelin and Elf as well," he said in a team preview.
Alonso won in Barcelona in May and at Silverstone in June and dominated at Magny-Cours, Renault's home circuit in the heart of rural France, last season after finishing second there in 2004.
Ferrari's seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, 19 points behind after winning the previous race at Indianapolis, is the main rival in terms of the title.
But McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, using the same Michelin tyres as Alonso, could also be a big threat on Sunday afternoon.
While Schumacher has won seven times at Magny-Cours, and can become the first driver to win the same Grand Prix eight times, Michelin can expect to have the upper hand in their backyard after Bridgestone's show of strength in the United States.
Renault bosses are confident 'normal service' will be resumed after Schumacher's win at Indianapolis ended Alonso's run of four wins and five poles in a row.
The Spaniard, chasing his seventh victory in 11 races, sounded upbeat.
"I won four races in a row before Indy, but I always said that the championship was not over, and it sounded really pessimistic," he said.
"But a gap of 25 points before Indy didn't mean that we would be champions automatically, and now that the gap is 19 points, we cannot be pessimistic and think the advantage will disappear quickly.
"You have to look at the big picture for the championship. I was first or second at nine of the 10 races -- and in the next eight races, I think we will be able to keep on winning and increase the lead even more."
Alonso can again be the toast of Spain on Sunday night but compatriot Pedro de la Rosa will be doing his best to join him in the limelight.
The Spaniard steps up to the McLaren race seat after the Mercedes-powered team split with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya following his surprise decision to move to the NASCAR US stock car series next year.
De la Rosa, who also stood in for Montoya in Bahrain last year, will be doing his best to impress a team who have already signed Alonso for 2007 but have yet to say who will be partnering him.
While the Renault-Ferrari title battle may echo last weekend's France-Italy World Cup final clash, a victory for either team on the racetrack will give both countries a winner.
The French carmaker's team is led by flamboyant Italian Flavio Briatore while Ferrari look to Frenchman Jean Todt.
The only French driver in the race is Franck Montagny, who will be thankful just to get to the finish in his uncompetitive Super Aguri.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage