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Alonso sees four-way battle for F1 title
Alan Baldwin | March 14, 2006 00:13 IST
The new Formula One season promises to be a thriller on the evidence of Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.
"It was a great start. It's probably the most promising start to a season we've had actually," International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley told reporters.
"I'm sure we'll have several winners this season."
While Renault's Fernando Alonso came away from Bahrain with 10 points and a perfect start to his title defence, the 24-year-old Spaniard knows he has a different fight on his hands this year.
The lines drawn in the desert on Sunday showed that champions Renault and 2005 runners-up McLaren, between them winners of 18 of last year's 19 races, were no longer in a league of their own.
"It will be very interesting," said Alonso. "There are four teams fighting for victories at any circuit at the moment - Honda, McLaren, Ferrari and Renault. I think any of them can win races.
"We were quick, but we are not the favourites like some people expected. They said Renault was a little bit in front of other people. We always said we are not the top team but that we are a top four team who are all very close."
The heat of Sunday's battle, the first of the new V8 era, was between Alonso and Ferrari's seven times world champion Michael Schumacher and it ended with just 1.2 seconds between them.
Yet there was no disguising the threat from McLaren and Honda.
Kimi Raikkonen charged from 22nd on the grid to third place, begging the question what might have happened had the Finn's McLaren not suffered the suspension failure that penalised him in the widely-acclaimed new knockout qualifying.
Honda's Briton Jenson Button, fastest in practice, finished fourth after a clutch problem cost him three places at the start.
Beyond the top four, Williams showed they have impressive speed with their Cosworth engine powering rookie Nico Rosberg to the fastest lap of the race.
Bridgestone, unable to match Michelin's supremacy last year, appeared to be back in business with the new rules allowing tyre changes during the race.
Symonds foresaw weekends where the Michelin teams prevailed and others, such as at Ferrari's home track Imola in April, where their rivals would be stronger.
"I think in Imola Ferrari will win by a very, very large margin," he suggested.
Before that Malaysia and Australia take their turn in the limelight and McLaren will be hoping to seize the moment.
"Kimi did a fantastic job. To come from 22nd to a podium finish is stunning," said McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh.
"It is a bittersweet feeling, and we've had them before unfortunately throughout last year where we got some performances but didn't quite pull it together."
"There is a tinge of frustration but a feeling we can go out and win," he added.
"During the winter you try and assess competitiveness and we were saying Ferrari, Renault, Honda and ourselves look the strongest. I think this has confirmed it."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage