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Fernando Alonso wary of Michael Schumacher threat

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Alonso on 'rediscovered love' for F1

Fernando Alonso has singled out Michael Schumacher as his biggest rival for this year's world championship crown, despite the German's poor 2010 season.

Ferrari's Alonso was runner-up in the drivers' championship last year.

Meanwhile, Schumacher, 42, finished ninth in his Mercedes in his first season back since retiring in 2006.

But Alonso insisted: "There will be five world champions on the track and the most dangerous champion for me is always Michael."

Alonso missed out on last year's title after a strategy error at the Abu Dhabi finale - where finishing first or second would have guaranteed the title - allowed Red Bull's German driver Sebastian Vettel to take the crown.

However, during his first news conference of the year, the 2005 and 2006 world champion identified a different German - seven-time world champion Schumacher - as his surprise tip to be competing at the front.

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Alonso, who was speaking while away on Ferrari's pre-season ski trip, continued: "Now in January if I have to choose one name I have to say Michael.

"He is seven-times champion. He has nothing to prove. He had a difficult season but he is still a champion.

"He is still super class and if the car is right he will be a contender."

Whether Schumacher is given the "right car" will become clearer when testing begins in Spain on 1 February, prior to the first race in Bahrain on 13 March.

But the former Ferrari man had a frustrating comeback season in 2010 and was consistently out-performed by team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg, who finished seventh overall.

Along with Schumacher, Alonso is also acutely aware of the threat the other former champions in this year's field possess, including Vettel and the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Hopefully our car is better than the others and my toughest rival next year is Felipe [Massa]

Fernando Alonso

"No doubt Sebastian will be a contender. He will have experience and will be calm in certain moments. He will drive better than last year and that makes him dangerous to us," Alonso explained.

"McLaren will also be one of the favourites."

Alonso is also eager for his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa to improve on his sixth place last season.

"Hopefully our car is better than the others and my toughest rival next year is Felipe," said Alonso, who insisted that he would not start the season as Ferrari's number one driver.

"We work for Ferrari and we need to make sure one red car arrives in the first position.

"We're competitive people and we all want to in. If in the last part of the season if one of us has no chance of the title we would help the other driver. But at the start of the season I don't feel any preference."

While upbeat about the new 20-race season, the Spanish driver admitted he had concerns over the admission of adjustable rear wings, the return of the Kers power-boost system, the switch to Pirelli tyres for this season and extensive testing limits.

"I like 20 races, I like racing, competing, so to have more races is welcome," explained Alonso.

Felipe Massa
We have so many things to do on the steering wheel but we still need to drive the car... On every turn there are three or four buttons to press. It's definitely a little too much

Felipe Massa

"But I also like testing so I'd like 20 races and more testing. It's not easy and it's unfair for new drivers that they cannot test more.

"Without realising it, we're losing the focus on driving.

"The cars become tougher to drive when you have to make all these changes from one turn to the next."

The rear wings are perhaps the biggest novelty. While designed to facilitate more overtaking and appease fans, however the changes have left Alonso and Massa concerned about the number of buttons on their steering wheels.

Drivers will be able to adjust the wings from the cockpit once they are two laps into a race but the system's availability will be electronically controlled and will only be activated when a driver is less than one second behind another at predetermined points on the track, then deactivated once the driver brakes.

And both men said they were worried the cars were now becoming too complicated.

"Without realising it, we're losing the focus on driving," Alonso said, adding that "the cars become tougher to drive when you have to make all these changes from one turn to the next."

Massa added: "If you make the wrong choice and you have three cars behind you, you could fall from first to fourth in an instant," said Massa.

"We have so many things to do on the steering wheel [including Kers] but we still need to drive the car.

"We can do it but from a driver's point of view it's not fantastic. On every turn there are three or four buttons to press. It's definitely a little too much. It's at the limit you can say."

The switch from Bridgestone to Pirelli as the sole tyre supplier also represents a new challenge.

"The tyres are essentially the biggest change for 2011 because that alters our style of driving," said Alonso.

"Everyone has the same brand so people talk about it less, but you have to adapt very quickly.

"Teams will have to resolve problems by the second or third race.

"Entering a grand prix with completely unknown tyres would be very difficult for the teams."

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see also
Teams examine 'overspend' claims
12 Jan 11 |  Formula 1
Ferrari reshuffle after Abu Dhabi
04 Jan 11 |  Formula 1
Schumacher pins blame on his car
06 Dec 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso quickest in tyre testing
20 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Vettel win seals maiden F1 title
14 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Michael Schumacher profile
14 Mar 11 |  Drivers & Teams
Fernando Alonso profile
14 Mar 11 |  Drivers & Teams


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