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Alonso sets the pace in Valencia 04 Mar 2003

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 5 March 2003

Spanish Renault racer Fernando Alonso is keenly awaiting his first Grand Prix since his drive for Minardi in Japan in 2001. After testing all winter for the French team, the former karter celebrated by setting the fastest time at Valencia late in February and feels he is now in good shape for the season ahead.

After evaluating new engine components in the new Renault R23, Alonso said: "It was a really good test for us and the car went extremely well. There is no doubt in my mind that we have made a big step over the 2002 car, and in all our testing this winter the car has been reliable as well as quick. It was a good feeling to finish the last day at the top of the timesheets and ahead of Rubens Barrichello in the Ferrari.

"I've done a lot of driving in the past season, testing for Renault on a regular basis, and I'm feeling very optimistic about my second season in Formula One. The team is very good and I have already settled in because of all that testing, so I'm looking forward to getting out to Melbourne and pushing as hard as I can."