Heikki Kovalainen is sticking by his claim that Fernando Alonso will be world champion again this year, despite the Spaniard currently trailing McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the standings.

Writing in his regular column for the BBC, Renault pilot Kovalainen admitted that, while his choice was looking a little shaky given the current state of play, he still fancied Alonso to come through and steal a third world crown.

"It is now down to two teams and four drivers, and it will be a really close fight between McLaren and Ferrari," the Finn wrote, "Ferrari got a one-two at the weekend, but I still don't know if their drivers will be able to do it. They are a long way behind, although it would only take a problem for one of the McLarens and another Ferrari win to turn it around.

"But I was asked earlier in the season who I thought would win the championship and I said Fernando Alonso - and I will be sticking with that guess. It is hard for me to give a particular reason for it, I just think that he has the experience and the fact that he has been in this position before is so valuable. It's just a gut feeling of mine really - and I'm not just saying that because he's my friend! I know all the guys really well, we get on and they are all good drivers, I just think Alonso has the edge."

Despite his convictions, Kovalainen was full of praise for Hamilton, who has taken three wins in his debut F1 season.

"I don't subscribe to the feeling that Lewis Hamilton can't win it because it is his debut season - he is a very serious contender and he does not make many mistakes, so I am sure he will be there or thereabouts come the finish," the Finn reasoned.

"And there's no question for me that Alonso will be affected by his rivalry with Lewis - I'm sure he won't be. I don't think those two, or the McLaren team, really worry about all the talk in the media, they just get on with things and try to do their best race by race. And don't forget Alonso has been through all this before - last year, he was behind Michael Schumacher for a time in the standings, but he didn't panic and came from behind to win the title."

The rumour mill continues to suggest that Alonso, should he go through with his threat to quit McLaren at the end of the season, could end up partnering Kovalainen at Renault in 2008, but the Finn plays down any suggestion that he knows the make-up of the regie's line-up.

"I've seen the rumours linking Alonso with a move back here, but I have not talked with anyone about that," he insisted, "The team are due to make a decision about my future around the Monza weekend in September. The car will definitely be competitive again and I would love to be part of it. I just know that this team will be up there again next year and I think we could achieve good things together, so I will wait for their decision."



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