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Alonso hails departing Schumacher
October 23, 2006 08:28 IST
Fernando Alonso saluted his Renault team and departing Ferrari rival Michael Schumacher on Sunday after winning his second Formula One championship in a row in Brazil.
"I think it was good to fight with him," the Spaniard said of seven times champion Schumacher, who finished fourth in the last race of his career.
"I always said that to become champion when Michael was still on the track has maybe more value than when he retired, and I was extremely lucky to win the last two championships he raced in.
"I think all the drivers wish him the best for his new life with his family. It has been a pleasure for us to race with him," said Alonso.
Sunday was also Alonso's last race for Renault before joining Mercedes-powered McLaren in 2007 and the 25-year-old thanked the Anglo-French team for everything.
He had needed to secure just one point to guarantee the championship at Interlagos and ultimately that was never in doubt as he finished second behind Schumacher's Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa.
"It has been a fantastic weekend and now I probably need some time to believe that I'm champion again," he told a news conference.
"I'm 25-years old, two championships now, and two constructors' as well. It's my last race for Renault after five years' relationship, a fantastic way to finish the relationship with this success.
"I will have these memories with them all my life and to finish the last race like this is something that you never dream of, you never even try to dream of, because it's always more than what you expected," he said.
Alonso won seven Grands Prix this year, the same as last season, while Renault retained their constructors' title despite Ferrari winning more races.
The Spaniard triumphed in his home Spanish Grand Prix and at Monaco, the glamour highlight to the season.
"To all the people in the team, who did a fantastic job, I want to say thanks again to all of them," he said. "They were completely my family in Formula One."
With Schumacher departed, Alonso will be the only champion in Formula One next season but he joins a team that has not won since 2005.
He left no doubt that he was looking forward to that challenge.
"I knew that 2006 would be a good season for us and Renault should be on top, fighting for the championship and I knew that this year there would be the possibility to become champion and we were ready to take it," he said.
"I feel that for the next three years also at McLaren I will have the opportunity to have a good car.
"Renault, for sure, will have a good car but hopefully I will find new motivation with McLaren, a new challenge, new people, a new way to work and this is really very important for me and I'm looking forward to this new thing."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage