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Alonso seeking change of US fortune 30 Jun 2006

Performing arts students with Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Indianapolis, USA, 29 June 2006

Fernando Alonso has never finished a US Grand Prix, retiring in 2001, 2003 and 2004, and not even starting last year and in 2002 (when he was Renault’s test driver). With his current streak of four consecutive victories that’s something the Spaniard aims to correct this year. Yesterday he was full of confidence in both his Renault, and Michelin’s tyres.

“It’s been fantastic, no doubts about this,” he said of his season so far. “We have had a dream season, and now we have to finish the job in the second half. It’s looking great, the team performance has been good everywhere. I lost two opportunities to win two other races, in Malaysia when we made a mistake in qualifying with the fuel load we put in the car, and in Imola we lost the race. We were quicker than Michael (Schumacher), and perhaps we pit too early. Even with that, six victories and three second places, we never expect this performance and success. With the new rules and new car, everyone had some doubts at the beginning of the season, and I think the team did a fantastic job and we were ready for the first race.”

He still intends to go for wins, however, and is not tempted to take it easy and stroll home behind arch-rival Schumacher. “I think the best defense is to keep attacking and keep increasing the gap over second place. And if one time we have to defend, we cannot be crazy, second place or third place would be okay, but we have to keep winning. We cannot wait and see the others win. We have to keep doing the maximum team-wise, I think for the next race we have a new engine coming, some new aerodynamics in the car for Hockenheim. So I think race by race we will improve the car.”

All season he has said how important it is to take victories for the first time on tracks such as Catalunya, Monaco, Silverstone and Montreal. Indianapolis falls into the same category. “At the beginning of the season, I said that I need a podium at Monaco, Indianapolis and Canada because they are the only three trophies I didn’t have at all the circuits. I did Monaco and Canada, so it’s still Indianapolis to get on the podium. I think Monaco, Monza and Indianapolis are the most famous circuits in the world, and to win at any of those circuits is something special for any racing driver.”

Alonso said he is completely confident that Michelin will not have a recurrence of last season’s problems. “Every race we’re in contact with them. The Monday or Tuesday we know the tyres we’re taking for the race, compounds, constructions and new developments in the tyre. And Indianapolis is the normal thing; we know what we’re bringing here, and I have 100 percent confidence. I think we know the problem last year, they know the problem, it’s completely forgotten. Here you need a tyre that has to be quite soft for the inside part, where there’s not a lot of grip. The most difficult part of the circuit is the aerodynamics of the car because you must put less wing for the long straight, but you need some support for the inside part so you can gain some time in the corners. So to find a good compromise normally is impossible, and you need to see what your opponents are doing, and be as quick as them on straight and have more wing than them on the inside part.”

The world champion also stressed how important he believed it is for Formula One racing to hold a Grand Prix in America. “It’s very important for me. I think Formula One, to be all the countries in the world, to be the biggest sport show you can see in the world, why not in America? Why not in the States? You have everything here, all the sports, great champions, I think Formula One has to be in America, yes, because you see 150,000 or 200,000 people here every year, even if the people don’t feel it’s that interesting, I think it has to be always in America.”