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Brundle on Alonso

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Fernando Alonso on his hopes for the 2009 Formula 1 season

By Martin Brundle
BBC Formula 1 broadcaster


Fernando Alonso may not be the clear favourite to win the 2009 drivers' crown but I am expecting a lot from him this season.

There is no doubt the Spaniard, who won back-to-back championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006, will fancy a shot at a third title under the radical new rules. He will be pushing the limits.

Winter Formula 1 testing can be very misleading and confusing but the signs are good.

Renault seem quite perky and, as ugly as the R29 looks, it appears to have solid pace.

Renault - and Red Bull, who are also powered by Renault - will have 0.2 seconds per lap improvement relative to their rivals because they were allowed to modify their engine over the winter.

Alonso has the brainpower to manage a race from start to finish and that will critical in 2009

They demonstrated that they were running with less power last season because they had interpreted the development freeze more literally. The upshot was the other teams agreed they could upgrade their 2009 engine.

Whether Alonso has got a car capable of winning the world championship I don't know, but he seems confident that he has.

If he's right then he has all the other ingredients needed to win third world title.

I don't see many weaknesses in Alonso when he is behind the wheel - he has the full deck of cards.

Right now the 27-year-old is the most complete F1 driver out there in my view.

He is in the Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost mould - and they won 11 titles between them.

He is capable of driving the car consistently close to its limit while still maintaining enough mental capacity to work out what is going on around him with his tyres, the track, and race strategy.

Fernando Alonso (left) and Renault boss Flavio Briatore (right) celebrate taking the titles in 2006
Alonso (far left) and Renault won both titles in 2005 and 2006

Alonso has the brainpower to manage a race from start to finish and that will be even more critical within the 2009 regulations.

There are extra cockpit controls to activate the kinetic energy recovery (Kers) boost which is worth an extra 80 horsepower - the total power of a small family car - for just under seven seconds per lap.

Adjustable front-wing flaps over a six degree range permitted twice per lap to fine tune the handling will also increase driver workload.

The Spaniard also has great qualifying pace, he knows how to set up the car, and how to galvanise the team around him. He's not a crasher either.

When Alonso won his world titles with Renault we saw all this come to fruition.

He demonstrated his ability to adapt to changing circumstances with pure confidence behind the wheel.

If Alonso had kept his head together at McLaren he would have won the championship but he threw it away with his tantrums

In qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix in 2006, for example, he seemed to defy the laws of physics.

An earlier burst tyre had seriously damaged his car but he still managed to produce an incredible qualifying lap, finishing fifth before a subsequent demotion for supposed blocking.

It would not be a true depiction to paint Alonso as Mr Perfect - his single, tumultuous season at McLaren painfully proved that.

His experience there was very costly, both for his reputation and his chances of another world title.

Alonso could not cope with then team-mate Lewis Hamilton or McLaren's approach in that, despite being double world champion, he was not treated as the team's number one driver.

He went down a lot as a person in my estimation with his antics at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

After a bust-up with team principal Ron Dennis, he threatened to hand over information to the sport's governing body, the FIA, incriminating McLaren in the escalating spy row over Ferrari data.

He also apparently demanded that Hamilton's championship charge be compromised in his favour.

In my view, if he had kept his head together he would have won the championship but he threw it away with his tantrums.

606: DEBATE

If the McLaren episode tarnished his reputation then last year he began to recover some respect when he returned to Renault and got his head down.

In the early part of the 2008 season, it was obvious that he was still carrying the frustration of 2007 with him.

In Monaco, he barged Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber in a really amateurish move. He was also reckless in Hockenheim, spinning off a couple of times.

But towards the end of the season, Renault changed the front wing on the car and Alonso seemed to much prefer the handling.

He claimed two brilliant if slightly opportunistic victories in Singapore and Japan.

Now he has a chance to push on again and there is no doubt he has more world championships in him.

Fernando Alonso drivers the Renault R29
Alonso topped the times during winter testing in Renault's new car

But Hamilton is quickly catching him up as the ultimate driver on the grid.

And it will not be long before Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and BMW's Robert Kubica fully find their feet and gain the experience to match their impressive speed.

This is Alonso's time. He should be knocking off race victories and challenging for the world championship, but ultimately his chances this season depend on the car Renault have given him to drive.

Martin Brundle was talking to BBC Sport's Sarah Holt.



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see also
Brundle on Hamilton
04 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
F1 on the BBC in 2009
25 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Fernando Alonso
04 Mar 09 |  Drivers & Teams
F1 ready for racing revolution
04 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Focused Alonso sets sights on title
20 Jan 09 |  Formula 1
Alonso upbeat over Renault hopes
19 Jan 09 |  Formula 1
Alonso in quit threat over rules
02 Dec 08 |  Motorsport
Alonso wins as title duo collide
12 Oct 08 |  Formula 1
Alonso wins as Hamilton prospers
28 Sep 08 |  Formula 1


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