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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 14:38 GMT
Barrichello hails 'future champs'
Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso on the podium at the Malaysian Grand Prix
Raikkonen (centre) and Alonso have impressed Barrichello
Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso will both win the Formula One world championship during their careers, according to Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello.

McLaren driver Raikkonen won his first race in just 36 attempts at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, while Alonso finished third in his Renault after becoming the youngest driver to set a pole position on Saturday.

"I think both are future world champions," said Barrichello, who finished second.

"I just hope I can win the world championship before them."

Alonso described his first Formula One podium finish - achieved with a fever despite the 35-degree temperatures - as "the best day of my life".

Alonso said: "It's a great feeling to finish on the podium, especially since halfway through the race I started to have problems with my gearbox and I was forced to shift manually until the end.

Fernando drove a fantastic race
Mike Gascoyne
Renault technical director

"Frankly, I thought I wasn't going to finish, and instead I got this great result."

It was the first time Renault had finished on the podium since they returned to F1 with their own team in 2001.

Team boss Flavio Briatore described it as "an important day for Renault".

The performances of Alonso and team-mate Jarno Trulli - who recovered to finish fifth after being punted into a spin by Michael Schumacher on the first lap - provided evidence that Renault are a genuine threat this season.

After qualifying first and second, many in F1 said that the performance only came about because they ran with a light fuel load - which Renault denied.

New rules this year dictate that teams cannot refuel between qualifying and the race, which means less competitive teams can run less fuel in qualifying to put themselves artificially high on the grid.

Fernando Alonso finished third after starting first, while Jarno Trulli recovered to fifth after a first-lap crash with Michael Schumacher
Alonso celebrates his podium as team-mate Trulli looks on

While Alonso and Trulli did stop a handful of laps earlier than Ferrari and McLaren, they still operated a similar two-stop strategy - and Alonso was racing with Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello until his gearbox problem.

Technical director Mike Gascoyne said: "It's a fantastic result for the team. We had a very strong, competitive weekend."

Gascoyne also took the opportunity to lambast the British press, many of whom criticised Renault for dropping Jenson Button in favour of Alonso last season.

"I hope all those English journalists who wrote it have got the balls to say we were probably right," Gascoyne said.

"Flavio particularly got a lot of stick - everyone was saying he (Alonso) is in the team because he's managed by Flavio.

"But the reason he is managed by Flavio is that Flavio spotted him three years ago and said that's the guy we want in our team and he went and got him.

"We put him in at Minardi [in 2001] and he did a fantastic job there, he tested for us and did a fantastic job. The time was right to get him in the car.

"I think in a year or two's time, he can win the world championship," Gascoyne said.






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