Former double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso is adamant that he has not yet given up hope of reclaiming his drivers' crown in 2009 - arguing that Renault made 'a big step forward' in Shanghai last weekend and lauding the team's 'amazing job'.

After two grands prix in which he barely scraped into the final Q3 top ten shoot-out in qualifying, Alonso stormed to the outside of the front row of the grid for the Chinese Grand Prix, albeit on a lower fuel load than any of his rivals. That notwithstanding, the Spaniard is positive there is plenty more still to come and that - 17 points shy of the championship lead or not - he is far from out of the equation.

The R?gie became the first of the non 'double-diffuser' teams to trial an interim split-level version in Shanghai - and though teething troubles severely limited Alonso's Saturday morning practice running, he clearly demonstrated its potential in qualifying, and is now hoping for more of the same in the Bahrain Grand Prix this coming weekend.

"I feel we can still fight to win the championship," the 27-year-old is quoted as having said by international news agency AFP. "It is still a very early part of the season, but I am confident. It is not too late. The team has done an amazing job so far and we showed in China that we have the pace to reach Q3.

"The new parts we added to the car gave us a big step forward, and the team did a great job to get them to China and fitted on the car in time for qualifying. To qualify on the front row showed the progress we've made, and it was a boost for the whole team - it was good for us and told us we are going in the right direction.

"Unfortunately, I started the race light on fuel and I made my first stop under the safety car. That pretty much ended my race as I went from the front row to the back of the pack. It was just one of those days when the decisions we took didn't go our way, but I think we can have a different kind of race in Bahrain."

Indeed, the man from Oviedo boasts an impressive track record in Sakhir, having triumphed there in back-to-back campaigns in 2005 and 2006. He is hopeful of making it five points finishes in six appearances in the desert kingdom in the 2009 edition, having thus far only missed out last year, when he was run into by former McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton on lap two.

"It is a tough circuit, but I have good memories of racing there," mused the 21-time grand prix-winner. "I have had wins there in my world championship years and I hope we can do well.

"It is a very tough track for the brakes, but I think we can do well again. At this stage of the season, the most important thing is that we can collect points and we can keep on fighting."