Fernando Alonso will be gunning for his third drivers' title this season and the Spaniard is 'hopeful' he will be in contention for the big prize and able to battle with last year's victor Lewis Hamilton.

Alonso enjoyed a storming end to the 2008 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, finishing in the points in the final six races - as well as winning of course in Singapore and Japan.

The two-time world champion will now be looking to maintain that momentum when the new season gets underway in Melbourne with the Australian Grand Prix at the end of March.

"The 2008 season was intense, with the team making amazing progress," said Fernando. "It was therefore important to meet the expectations that we had with the victories in Singapore and Japan.

"We won together in 2005 and 2006 and I've always said that I want to win a third world title and hopefully it will be possible to fight for the championship again this year.

"I have said before that I feel comfortable in this team and I am happy to continue this adventure with Renault. But before that, it's vital that we work hard this winter on our development programme and that is what I will concentrate on in the weeks leading up to the Australian Grand Prix."

Asked how the Regie's preparations have been going so far, Fernando added that thus far everything seems to have gone 'very smoothly': "I've been impressed by the work the team has achieved. Aesthetically, it's true that the R29 is very different to the R28, but this is a consequence of the new aerodynamic regulations," he continued.

"The 2009 season represents a real challenge on all levels and we will have to wait for the first few races of the season to see whether the decisions that we have taken have been the right ones. But the team can be satisfied with the work that has been achieved over the last few months.

"Now we are all looking forward to seeing the result of all that effort on the racetrack. We are enormously motivated and I think it's fair to say that overall our preparations have gone very smoothly."

As for the rule changes, Alonso doesn't think it will influence the peaking order to much: "Rule changes happen regularly in Formula 1; each year we see new sporting and technical regulations and the teams are used to dealing with the challenges that this presents. It can shake up the order a bit, but it's usually the same teams that you find at the front and I'm sure that will be the case once again this season.

"In the past Renault has shown that it is good at adapting to rule changes and the team started to work very early on the R29 project so hopefully this will pay us back on the racetrack," he summed-up.