Fernando Alonso has insisted that he and Renault will be fully capable of battling to reclaim their Formula 1 World Championship crowns in 2009 – even if he acknowledges that 'so many factors' will determine the performance of the new R29.
The Spaniard – who clinched back-to-back drivers' titles with the Régie
in the top flight in 2005 and 2006, before narrowly missing out on the 2007 laurels during his ill-fated stint at McLaren-Mercedes – is optimistic that Renault's superb end to 2008 can be maintained over the winter months.
Over the second half of the season, Alonso scored more points than anyone else, and the man from Oviedo is confident that – the sport's sweeping new aerodynamic and technical regulations notwithstanding – the French outfit can pick up where it left off when the flag drops to signal the start of the 2009 campaign with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne at the end of March.
“Before I stop, I want to win the championship again,” the 27-year-old told Spanish radio station Cadena SER
, whilst speaking to some 2,000 students at Madrid University, “and I will already be able to fight for it from 2009. On 20 January I'll try the new car for the first time, although the tests of the R29 will depend on so many factors.”
Alonso was similarly open on the subject of his famously frosty relationship with newly-crowned F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton at Woking last year – insisting the pair's differences had been blown out of all proportion – but he was more coy on continuing speculation about a mooted switch to Ferrari in 2009, saying simply: “It wouldn't be right to comment at the moment.”
It was recently confirmed that leading Spanish bank Santander will be jumping ship from McLaren to the Scuderia
from 2010 onwards, and its chairman Emilio Botin has made no secret of his desire to see Alonso also sporting a scarlet driving suit [see separate story – click here
“It's not as terrible as they make out in Spain and England,” the 21-time grand prix-winner stressed of his problems with Hamilton. “I complimented him on his title, like the previous year I had done with Raikkonen. That's it. I don't feel anything particular about the fact that he has become world champion, [even if] my favourite was Kimi.”