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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 09:58 GMT
Alonso ready for F1 title fight
Fernando Alonso
Alonso begins his hunt for a third straight title in Melbourne
Fernando Alonso is confident he can challenge for a third Formula One crown despite moving from Renault to McLaren.

McLaren failed to win a race in 2006 but Alonso aims to turn that around at the Australian Grand Prix, where first practice begins at 2300 GMT.

Alonso said: "I am in a better position than the Renault team and I'm happy.

"It's easier to approach the races winning the title two times. I am really confident for the championship and we'll try and repeat that success."

606: DEBATE

The Spaniard goes into the race after an impressive spell of winter testing with McLaren but still expects to judge the MP4-22's real capabilities in race conditions.

Alonso won at Melbourne's Albert Park last season and has a good record in the 58-lap race, finishing third in 2004 and 2005.

I want to win races and fight for the championship

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen

"The first race is quite different, quite surprising for everybody," Alonso said. "So to see the real potential of the car we need to wait maybe three or four races.

"We are very confident and we improved the car from the last test before Melbourne, so we should be very competitive."

McLaren, Renault, BMW and Ferrari set the pace over the close season and Alonso singled out Ferrari as the main threat to his title ambitions - even without retired seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

"Ferrari have been really strong," said Alonso. "But [Schumacher] I will not miss him."

Schumacher will be absent from the season-opening race for the first time since 1991 but the German's replacement, Kimi Raikkonen, is unfazed about the prospect of trying to fill his shoes.

The Finn can only improve on Ferrari's performance in Melbourne last year when Schumacher crashed on the 33rd lap and team-mate Felipe Massa lasted less than two turns.

"I've got expectations on myself," said the Finn, who moved from McLaren after Alonso's announced arrival to join Ferrari.

Taking to the grid in Australia is the end of one journey for me and the start of an even bigger one

British rookie Lewis Hamilton

"I want to win races and fight for the championship and that's what the team wants.

"I know the history [of Ferrari] but I don't really know the details because it's not going to change my life. It's a very big famous team and I am happy to be part of it.

"The car seems good so it's exciting to get to the first race and see how it goes."

Formula One debutant, Englishman Lewis Hamilton, is also relishing the prospect of testing himself against Ferrari alongside McLaren team-mate Alonso.

"Ferrari have been quick but we won't know until Friday or Saturday exactly who is where," said Hamilton, 22.

"But I am sure we are going to be very competitive. I am optimistic about our package and the weekend ahead.

"Taking to the grid in Australia is the end of one journey for me and the start of an even bigger one."



SEE ALSO
Ferrari 'can win without Schumi'
13 Mar 07 |  Formula One
Renault admit new tyre concerns
16 Feb 07 |  Formula One
New-look McLaren impresses Alonso
17 Jan 07 |  Formula One
Villeneuve has Raikkonen doubts
19 Feb 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton sets hot pace on return
02 Feb 07 |  Formula One


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