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Title rivals raring to go in Bahrain 10 Mar 2006

(L to R): Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren; Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Preparations, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 9 March 2006

Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher all entered into the spirit of the Bahrain Grand Prix yesterday, and each of them is feeling optimistic about their chances.

“I don’t think we are exactly where we want to be but we are in a much better position than we were a month ago,” admitted Raikkonen. “I think we have been quick sometimes, but Renault and Honda might be quicker than us. It really depends if we get everything sorted out, in which case we might be able to fight for wins. But we will just do the best that we can and see where we end up.”

Alonso looks relaxed and ready for the fight, and is determined to be one of those rare champions who can repeat the feat the following year.

“I think nothing has changed,” he said of his championship success with Renault in 2005, “but obviously this weekend I will have number one on my car so it’s dream come true and I will try my best again, all through this season and try to repeat the success we had last year.

“I am approaching it slightly differently because I always arrived at the first race, in the past, thinking to be fighting for the races or to be on the podium, winning races or something like that. Now I have much more confidence in myself and am much more looking forward to the championship, at the end, to be World Champion again. It doesn’t matter how many races you win, maybe. It’s only a matter of being champion at the end and this is a different approach.

“It will depend on how quick the car is. It doesn’t matter how motivated you are because as soon as you start the race and the green lights go on, all the drivers do their maximum, their best and sometimes you can do it and sometimes not. I think the best thing is that we arrive ready again, the new car is competitive and strong enough to be quick on race pace. I think we are ready for the first race, we’ll see what happens on Sunday.”

Schumacher said that he prefers driving the V8 cars to the V10s. “It’s more in harmony and it’s much sharper to drive.”

Raikkonen agrees. “I think it goes a bit slower in a straight line and the corner speed is about the same as in previous years. I haven’t changed my driving at all. You just try to go as quickly as you can. Of course, the torque is not as much as in a V10 so there are more details in different areas, but it hasn’t really changed much.”

Alonso, Raikkonen and Schumacher are three clear favourites for the 2005 title, but Schumacher believes there could be more. “I think there’s more than three because Honda have two drivers. Also, we all have team mates so it’s got to be a nice season for all of us.”