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Alonso exclusive: I can do it again 29 Mar 2006

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, 18 March 2006

Back in 2004, when he first emerged as a frontrunner, Fernando Alonso claimed his success was both early and unexpected. A year later he was world champion - the youngest ever. Now, two races into the 2006 season, the Spaniard leads the standings by seven points and seems more accustomed than ever to the fact that he and Renault are the pacesetters…

Q: Now that you have settled into the 2006 season, who would you consider your greatest competition: Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen?
Fernando Alonso:
The competition will come from the guys who have the best car. Kimi and Michael were second and third in the championship last year, so they will be strong. Honda are clearly quick. And there is my team mate, Giancarlo (Fisichella). I think we have four top teams fighting for the win, and the rivals will change from track to track depending on which team is fast.

Q: What are your feelings on the new qualifying system? How would you rate it? You have spent most of your Formula One career with the single lap format - which do you prefer?
FA:
Well, when I started in 2001 we still had the old one-hour system. Honestly, for me it is not a big difference whatever we do. We do more laps now, but in each part there is still only one lap when we have maximum revs, new tyres and the right fuel load. So I don’t think the skill has changed for the drivers. The important thing, I think, is to agree a format and stick to it.

Q: Being world champion brings with it a lot of pressure. People inevitably ask ‘can he do it again or did he simply have luck on his side last season?’ How confident are you of a repeat performance in 2006?
FA:
After these first races, seeing the competitiveness of the car, I am very confident. I know we can be fighting for the title this year. I don’t know if I can win again, we will see how the season unfolds. But for sure, I can be in the fight.

Q: Some people say that you are a quite remote. Would you agree?
FA:
I try to keep my private and public life separate. When I am at the track, I am available to people, talk to the press, that is my public life. Away from the circuit, I want to live a normal life, without the attention. But I don’t think that makes me remote or unusual.

Q: Now that you have achieved your goal of becoming Formula One world champion, what’s your new ambition?
FA:
To do it again! I love competition in anything I do, I love testing myself against other people on the track. That’s my motivation.

Q: Have you been surprised by pre-eminence of Renault so far this season? Did you really expect to pick up where you left off racing last year?
FA:
We hoped so. There were a lot of changes, and we knew that the team that worked best could come out with an advantage. We worked in our own way, and we seem to have a small advantage at the moment. But we are taking nothing for granted, and now is the time to be pushing very hard to stay in front.

Q: What are Renault doing better than their rivals, bearing in mind that all teams had to cope with a new engine and new regulations?
FA:
I don’t know, honestly. I think we worked from a good starting point with last year’s car, and the engine team did a fantastic job in developing a reliable and powerful V8. We only ran the engine late at the track, but I think we showed that we have good people, and the right technology. I don’t think the advantage comes from one area, but we are working very well at the moment, everybody pushing in the same direction.

Q: You hail from Oviedo, but live in Oxford. Any plans to move back to Spain - or somewhere else - in the future?
FA:
I have lived in Oxford since 2002, so I don’t have any plans, no. Oviedo is my home city, and a special place for me. But I cannot live a normal life there any more, so I am happy to be in England, just living like a 24-year old without the pressure that we have now in Spain.

Q: Your forthcoming switch to McLaren caused some big waves in the paddock. What was so tempting about the move?
FA:
I felt the time was right for a change in my career, a new chapter. I have grown up at Renault, they have made me world champion and I have helped take them to the front. For me, it was time for a new challenge, and I thought this was the best option for my future.