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'McLaren are Monaco favourites'
May 22, 2008 12:23 IST
Renault's Fernando Alonso [Images] refused to rule out a Monaco Grand Prix hat-trick on Wednesday while tipping former employers McLaren as favourites for Sunday's showcase race.
"We have always some surprises in Monaco, some cars that perform here better than the normal tracks," the Spaniard, who won with Renault in 2006 and McLaren last year, told reporters in the Mediterranean principality.
"Obviously we have some confidence that this track and this race will be good for us and a little opportunity to fight with the top teams," added the double world champion.
"In 2004, the Renault was not in a position to win races or to fight for podiums and we arrived in Monaco and [Italian Jarno] Trulli won the race and I crashed in the tunnel when I was second.
"If I hadn't, it would have been a one-two in Monte Carlo so hopefully we can repeat this type of things."
The late Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna, who reigned supreme over Monaco's street circuit between 1989 and 1993, remains the last driver to win Formula One's glamour showcase three times in a row.
Renault have not won a race since 2006 and Alonso has yet to appear on the podium since he left McLaren after one acrimonious season.
Champions Ferrari [Images] have won the last four races, but have had no success in Monaco since 2001 with Michael Schumacher [Images], while McLaren's recent record on the street circuit is second to none.
Alonso won from pole position last year and also set the fastest lap, ahead of his sensational British team mate Lewis Hamilton [Images].
"Seeing how we are this year, and how we are not at a good level to fight for victories, we cannot arrive here too optimistic," continued Alonso, adding a note of caution.
"Regarding also how the McLaren performed here last year, I think they are clearly the favourites for this year.
"But strange things can happen, Monaco is a completely different race and you only win when you finish the race."
Last year's race hastened the breakdown of Alonso's relationship with Hamilton, the Briton's complaints afterwards that the team had not allowed him to race the Spaniard triggering an investigation by the governing FIA.
Alonso was reluctant to talk up the 23-year-old's chances a year on.
"I don't know and I don't care," he said when asked whether Hamilton could win now that he no longer had the Spaniard to worry about. "I have too many things to take care of other than the McLaren performance.
"Last year was one of my favourite races because the car was very, very good to drive and all weekend we were competitive and we lapped the fourth guy," he added.
"We were also one minute ahead of [Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe] Massa. It was a very good race last year and I have great memories.
"I know that the week after there was some talk, some rumours, but they were not my problem. It was my best race probably last year".
Formula One: The Complete Coverage