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Alonso regards Fisichella main threat
Julian Linden | March 29, 2006 18:33 IST
Spaniard Fernando Alonso is sure of one thing: a Renault will win this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.
However, the reigning world champion has no idea whether it will be him or his talented team mate Giancarlo Fisichella who takes the chequered flag.
Alonso won the season-opening race in Bahrain but had to settle for second place behind the Italian in Malaysia and expects Fisichella to be his main rival in Melbourne this weekend.
"I'm happy if I have to fight with my team mate because it means that the car is competitive and it's good news for the team and for me," Alonso said in a statement released by Renault.
"We know the car is competitive, it has won the first two races and that gives me the conviction that we can be quick at the next 16 rounds too."
Fisichella won last year's Australian Grand Prix when it was the first race of the season, but this year's race was moved back to the third round to avoid clashing with the Commonwealth Games, which ended in Melbourne last Sunday.
"I have a great feeling here, I won last year and I am hoping to do the same again," Fisichella said.
The battle between the two Renault drivers has been given extra spice because of Alonso's decision to join McLaren next year, but the Spaniard says it's still all business as usual.
"Even if I'm leaving the team, I have no doubts that I saw in the first two races that nothing's changed compared to last year," he said.
"The two drivers will have the same opportunities and the same favour in the team as we did last year. They know that we need to try to win the championship so they need to try and help me."
Germany's Michael Schumacher has an imposing record at Albert Park, winning won four of the previous five races in his Ferrari before crashing out last year.
The seven-times world champion won only one race last year but the early signs this season have been far more encouraging and he has not discounted his chances of winning soon.
He finished second in Bahrain then sixth in Malaysia and believes the Ferraris are much closer to the Renaults than 12 months ago.
"Last year it was sometimes very clear from the beginning you have no chance," he told a news conference on Wednesday.
"But this year you have a lot more hope and trust in the package that you could win if things go well."
Finland's Kimi Raikkonen won seven races for McLaren last season but has a mixed start this season, finishing third in Bahrain before crashing out early in Sepang, and says he'll be happy with any high finish in Melbourne.
"After the first two races, I am really hoping to have a trouble-free weekend in Australia, as the car feels good and I think that we can get some good results with it," he said.
"I am aiming to get a solid points finish at this race to take back to Europe."
Raikkonen's team mate Juan Pablo Montoya has completed both races this season, finishing fourth and fifth, and hopes to improve on his placing.
"It wasn't an ideal weekend for me in Malaysia, but at least I finished," he said. "I am now looking forward to racing in Melbourne and hopefully challenging for a podium position.
"Albert Park is quite a flowing circuit, with long, sweeping bends and quick corners, so it is fun to drive and you can really build up a good rhythm."
The sentimental favourite this weekend will again be Mark Webber, the only Australian driver currently in Formula One.
Webber has twice finished fifth in the race, once in a Minardi and again in his current team Williams, and is striving to become the first Australian to stand on the podium in his home grand prix.
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