Alonso plays down chances


MANAMA, March 12 – Formula One title favourite Fernando Alonso did his best on Thursday to play down his prospects of landing his third world championship.
The two-times champion Spaniard, making his first appearance as a Ferrari driver at a race meeting, was keen to keep expectations under control when he met the media ahead of this weekend’s season opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 28-year-old from Oviedo said he was not interested in making any predictions at all – and stressed that the season is not decided in March, but in November.

Accompanied by his Ferrari team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa, the all-British McLaren duo of defending champion Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s former ‘red baron’ seven-times champion German Michael Schumacher, Alonso was in relaxed mood.

"It has been fantastic for me to join Ferrari and I feel very good in the team," he said. "We are very determined to do well, to do our best, and I think we are well prepared. But, you know, the championship is not going to be decided now.

"We want to be the world champions in November, not March. Our goal is to win the championship and we know that means a lot of hard work for the next 10 months. We are ready for that.

"A lot of people ask about the winter testing times and what it means and I just think we have to concentrate on our own performances, and try to be as good as we can, as fast as possible."

Asked about the form of the top teams, he said: "I think there are four teams – Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari, and any of these four can be a favourite for this race and in the first part of the championship.

"As well, I think there are other teams like Force India and Sauber who can have good races. We have to see."

Alonso has described the new Ferrari F10 car as the best he has ever driven, but was reluctant to make any further comment on the advantage he may derive from that machine.

But he was happy to talk about the warm welcome he has received at Ferrari where he is very much at home.

"I think that when you change team you need to adapt yourself to new people and a new philosophy for working. So far, it has been great for me and I have felt very comfortable from my first day.

"I am at home and I feel as if I am ready to win again and to fight for successes."

Ferrari are the fourth different F1 team of his career after racing previously for Minardi, Renault and McLaren, where he endured a torrid year of troubles in 2007.

"I have learned a lot in my career and now I am ready for this new challenge," he said. "But everyone can see this year is going to be very competitive."