Fernando Alonso has swiftly sought to pour cold water on suggestions that – should he indeed go on to end his F1 career at Ferrari, as he has claimed he now intends to do [see separate story – click here
] – he will be able to challenge and even surpass the record-breaking success of the legendary Michael Schumacher.
Alonso joins Ferrari aged 28 and with two drivers' world championships already under his belt. When Schumacher joined Ferrari for the 1996 F1 campaign, the German was aged 27 and similarly had two titles to his name at the highest level – and over the following eleven years he went on to add another five crowns to his extraordinary career CV.
A daunting task, undeniably, but equally, it has been pointed out, Alonso arrives at a Prancing Horse in far more competitive shape than it was a decade-and-a-half ago. Indeed, the Spaniard has already been installed by some observers as the early pre-season favourite – and whilst he acknowledges that he clearly hopes and expects to be amongst the leading protagonists in 2010, the 21-time grand prix-winner advises against getting too carried away too soon.
“Winning seven championships would be tough, if not impossible in today's Formula 1,” he mused, “but I will attempt to win as much as possible in the coming years.”
Moreover, in order to do so – at least over the next three years – Alonso will need to overcome Schumacher himself, with the 91-time grand prix-winner making a sensational return to the fray with Mercedes Grand Prix. The Oviedo native is the only man currently in F1 competition to have beaten 'Schumi' to the laurels – in both 2005 and 2006 – and he confesses that he is excited about the prospect of renewing battle with the most successful driver in the sport's history.
“For a driver who was at the top, it must be difficult to stay at home, because the adrenaline remains,” the 28-year-old reflected. “If he's been given this opportunity and has taken the decision to race again, it's because he feels he is ready and still competitive.
“I'm happy about it; it's positive and a good thing for Formula 1, and I think his comeback can only help this sport, especially after such a difficult year as we had in 2009. For the fans, 2010 will be very interesting, and for me his presence on the track will be a further motivation.”