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Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

Fernando Alonso relishing Michael Schumacher rivalry

Alonso 'excited' by Schumacher return

By Jonathan Legard
BBC Sport at Madonna di Campiglio

Ferrari's new recruit Fernando Alonso says he is looking forward to renewing his rivalry with seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher in 2010.

Schumacher won five world titles with Ferrari but is returning with Mercedes, who, as Brawn, won both titles in 2009.

"When Michael left it was not the same beating the others," Alonso, who pipped Schumacher to the 2005 and 2006 titles before he retired, told BBC Sport.

"To beat a legend is very motivating. Now he's back it's very special."

Schumacher's renewed rivalry with Alonso is one of the most eagerly anticipated match-ups of the new season, alongside 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton's first competitive meeting with Schumacher.

"Michael and I were rivals over the last two years," added Alonso, who ended months of speculation by signing a three-year deal with Ferrari in September.

"There was intense rivalry going into the last race of 2006 in Brazil [where that year's title was decided].

"You never lose that competitive person that Michael has inside - that was one of the motivations for him coming back."

Relationships between the seven-time world champion and Alonso sour during their championship battle in 2006.

Ferrari boss predicts close fight

One flashpoint was when Schumacher deliberately crashed his car at slow speed to stop the Spaniard snatching pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Schumacher has never admitted to deliberately blocking the track but he was found guilty by race stewards and put to the back of the grid.

It was Alonso's turn to be furious at the Italian Grand Prix later that year when he was demoted five places for allegedly holding up Schumacher's team-mate Felipe Massa in qualifying.

Alonso has now arrived at Ferrari as Massa's team-mate for 2010 and he donned the famous red kit for the first time this week at the team's annual winter sports event at Italian ski resort Madonna di Campiglio.

The Spaniard has already spoken of a desire to emulate Schumacher, who captured five world titles with Ferrari to add to the two he won with Benetton.

But Alonso acknowledged that with four world champions on the track in 2010 it will be difficult to also match Schumacher's dominance.

"You want to win always but it will also be almost impossible to repeat seven world championships," he conceded.

Fernando and Felipe are able to beat him even if Michael is still very strong

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali

"It will be difficult to win championships in a row like before as the cars are so close now.

"Ferrari and Mercedes will be top level teams; McLaren with their two world champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull will be contenders so it can be a fantastic championship.

"2005 and 2006 were unforgettable but the next years are a challenge for me to try and win a world championship with Ferrari and the title for a third time. It's a clear target for my near future.

"I would like as much success as possible to end my career on a high. I'd like to feel the same sensations that Michael did here over many years."

The first challenge for Alonso is settling into a new team alongside Massa, who emerged as Ferrari's de facto number one ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in 2008.

Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa (left) and Fernando Alonso
Massa (left) and Alonso have been getting acquainted on a skiing trip

Alonso is known to prefer to be top dog and openly accused McLaren of favouring his team-mate Hamilton during his tumultuous 2007 season with the Woking-based team.

Massa and Alonso clashed in on-track incidents at the Spanish and European Grands Prix in 2007 but the Spaniard says struggles over the balance of power at Ferrari will not be an issue.

"We were competitive people in 2007 but we have a good relationship and this is the past," Alonso, 28, added.

"I never ask to be the number one driver in any team but I do not want to be the number two.

"I'm not saying I want any preference but I work 110% with the team and if the team isn't working to the same level then that's not right.

"I learnt a lot at McLaren. Felipe has been here a long time and that's good for me."

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is charged with balancing the power between his drivers but he is adamant internal rivalry will not be an issue.

Mike H

"The rules are clear here," he said. "The drivers appreciate that.

"It was the same with Felipe and Kimi - one was stronger one year and then the other in the next and respect develops.

"People try to generate competition within our team but we have to be more rational inside."

Domenicali also spoke confidently about his new driving pairing and their ability to spoil Schumacher's comeback, saying it hails a new era at the Italian marque.

"We have two Latin drivers and it's a gush of fresh air which brings a sparkling, new environment," he stated.

"Fernando and Felipe are one of the strongest pairings amongst the teams.

"Michael's return is further stimulus within our set-up. We have to show Michael that this is a strong team. We want to win.

"Fernando and Felipe are able to beat him even if Michael is still very strong."

Ferrari's countdown to the 2010 season begins with the launch of their car on 28 January at their Maranello base.

The team stopped developing their 2009 challenger, which was off the pace at the start of the season, last summer to focus on 2010 but Domenicali remains cautious about making predictions before the car has hit the track.

"I believe the prospects are good," said Domenicali. "Despite last season, which was difficult for a lot of reasons, we have consolidated for the future.

"I don't think we'll see how competitive we will be by the first test in February but maybe by the last test.

"Winning immediately would be better but let's stay calm if it doesn't happen.

"I'm looking forward to see if the data we have, which looks quite position, is confirmed.

"I'm not expecting to see Ferrari at the beginning (to be) straight away there (at the front) - I want to see Ferrari back again competitive and then during the season step by step to grow the development to go back to the place where we should be."

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see also
Ferrari target beating Schumacher
13 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher pleased by test return
12 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso in Ferrari colours
14 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Massa completes Ferrari F1 test
12 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari confirm capture of Alonso
30 Sep 09 |  Formula 1

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