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Superfit Alonso aims high

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Superfit Alonso aims high
Jan 20, 2009, 4:45 PM

It's been a busy couple of days in the F1 world, with three car launches and some more rhetoric in the escalating war of words between Bernie Eccle...

It's been a busy couple of days in the F1 world, with three car launches and some more rhetoric in the escalating war of words between Bernie Ecclestone and the F1 teams association, FOTA.

Let's start with Renault. Fernando Alonso says he can win the championship with this car, he's ecstatic about the wind tunnel figures, which say that the car should be very fast once they get it running against the opposition on a dry track.

Alonso is once again in the strange position of starting a season at Renault, with a contract in his pocket to drive for another team in the future, as he was when he won the 2006 world title. Of course many people are still denying that a Ferrari deal is done, while Alonso himself is saying, craftily, that he has been asked this question now for five years (true) so nothing changes and he is focussed on the season ahead.

It would be churlish to dwell on what happens next year or 2011, when Renault have put in a great effort to build him a winning car. He seems pretty bullish about his chances this season and why not? Renault made up a lot of ground last season as they finally got to grips with the Bridgestone tyres and with the aerodynamic problems they had built in to the car by mistake. And with the FIA and the other teams allowing them to bring their engine up to everyone else's level (a special dispensation) they have every chance to compete this season with Ferrari, McLaren and BMW. In Alonso they have a proven champion and just to show he's really serious he's lost 3 kilos over the winter. Every little counts, as they say, and with extra driver weight a handicap in a car already bloated with the weight of a KERS system, those three kilos could save him a tenth of a second.

He's also worked hard on building up his shoulder muscles because he expects a more physical challenge from the grip level of the slick tyres.

Flavio Briatore denied stories circulating at the end of last season that he plans to step down soon a la Ron Dennis, explaining that a time of economic crisis and of great change within the sport is not the moment to walk away. He is still very close to Bernie Ecclestone and it will be interesting to monitor his actions over the coming season as the teams get into an increasingly serious ruck with Bernie.

Flav also swatted away questions about Alonso and Ferrari and said that he expected Nelson Piquet to do better than last year. It was a tough year for Piquet, but he showed some quality at times and on balance probably deserved that rarest of things in F1 - a second chance. Alonso will dominate him again over the season, but that doesn't mean that Piquet can't rack up some useful results. He showed that he has a bit more grit than many people thought and he'll need to dig deep from the start of the season to get himself on the right track.

Like Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicalli, Flavio was critical of the decision to introduce such an expensive new technology as KERS at a time like this, again pointing the finger at BMW as the ones who insisted on it when the teams held a vote. Ironically it now seems that BMW are not ruling out the possibility of starting the season in Melbourne without KERS on the car!

As the discussions are now moving towards using a standard KERS system anyway for 2010, Flav believes that the teams have wasted money developing their own systems just for 2009. If you add together what Mercedes spent (70 million euros) to the other teams who developed their own systems, it's got to be of the order of £150 million that has been spent. Williams spent under £2 million for a completely different kind of system which uses a flywheel and which some in the ruling elite would like to see as the basis for the standard system next 2010 if the rules go that way.
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Series Formula 1
Drivers Fernando Alonso Shop Now