Fri, Sep 09, 2005 - Page 23 News List

Alonso could take Formula One title at Belgian Grand Prix

AP , SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM

The stage is set to welcome the youngest Formula One world champion this weekend.

Fernando Alonso will be racing on his favorite circuit at the Belgian Grand Prix, a stunning, scenic loop which has featured plenty of motor racing history. He knows another excellent drive combined with a less-than-sterling result for hard-luck Kimi Raikkonen could give him the title at age 24.

"It is a circuit with good memories for me," Alonso said, reminiscing how he won his maiden F3000 race in 2000 amid the pines and hills of southern Belgium.

The sweet memories are not even that old for McLaren's Raikkonen, who won here last year.

"It was a great race for myself and the team last year, and hopefully we can repeat the result in 2005," he said. It would spoil's Alonso's party.

Hope, however, has rarely been good enough for the Finn, who has had to deal with misfortune throughout the season. Even though it is tough to say who is the best driver this year, the points go Alonso's way -- 103-76. With four races to go, it puts the Spaniard within clinching range on Sunday.

If Alonso wins, and Raikkonen misses the podium, Formula One will have the youngest champion ever -- a year younger than when Brazil's Emerson Fittipaldi won the first of his two titles in 1972.

Even if the Renault-driving Spaniard fails to capture the title in the last European race, there are three more Grand Prix left -- Brazil, Japan and China.

The spectacular course, at 6.9km the longest in Formula One, is a huge favorite among drivers. The combination of tight corners, dipping stretches, and blind uphill curves will likely keep the fans away from their calculators during the race.

"Spa is my favorite place to drive a F1 car," Alonso said.

To make the drama even better, the weather is expected to be fickle again this weekend, and a rain-soaked course traditionally brings out the best in champions at Francorchamps. It is little wonder the two biggest heroes at Francorchamps are the late Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.

For Schumacher, the outgoing champion, it would be particularly poignant to see Alonso crowned here. He raced his first Formula One Grand Prix here, won his first one at the Ardennes track and with six victories overall, he can lay claim to be the master of Spa. This year though, he is a distant third in the standings with 55 points, and already mathematically out of the standings race.

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