Sat, Sep 24, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Alonso on brink of championship

AP , SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

Race cars begin to line up at the Interlagos F1 race track Thursday, where the Brazilian Grand Prix will be held in Sao Paulo tomorrow.

PHOTO: EPA

Fernando Alonso is on the verge of his first Formula One championship entering this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix, while Kimi Raikkonen must win only to have a slight chance of keeping alive his title chances.

"It is an important race in that I can become champion but if I don't win on Sunday it is not the end of the world. I will race many years to come," Alonso said.

"Only winning matters," Raikkonen said. "For some time we have been in this situation but the championship is not up to us even if we win all the races."

Renault's Alonso needs a third-place finish in Sunday's race to officially succeed Michael Schumacher and become F1's youngest world champion. A victory for Raikkonen would extend the title chase only if Alonso finishes below third.

With points on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis, there are a number of combinations that could give Alonso the title -- most in the Spaniard's favor. He has a 25-point lead -- 111-86 -- with three races to go and needs to leave Brazil with at least a 21-point lead.

Raikkonen is realistic.

"Of course i am interested in winning but it is not going to happen for the others to have three bad races in a row," Raikkonen said.

Alonso has already made F1 history as the youngest race winner and pole sitter when he did both in 2003.

He remembers his first victory.

"It was a good day two years ago in Hungary. That moment was the greatest achievement in my career," Alonso said.

He didn't win again until this year but made up for lost time with six victories in the first 12 races. He hasn't won since the German GP on July 24 but hasn't lost much ground with three consecutive second-place finishes.

He remembered his humble beginnings with a small team in 2001.

"When you arrive in Formula One you believe in yourself. You have to have confidence. You think you can win in Formula One," Alonso said. "But obviously if you start with Minardi and the next year as a test driver you go down a little bit and you think it is much more difficult.

"At the end everything went very well with Renault. We grew up together and we are in a position to win now and I am very happy for this."

He could become the new champion after turning 24 last July. He will be a year younger than Brazil's Emerson Fittipaldi when he won the first of his two world titles in 1972.

"It doesn't matter what age you can achieve it. I have been lucky to have good opportunities when I was young and I have several opportunities to become champion," Alonso said.

Raikkonen has been doing his best to slow Alonso's drive to the title.

The McLaren-Mercedes driver has won three of the last four races.

He could have won the other easily. At the Italian GP he had the fastest time in qualifying but was penalized 10 spots on the starting grid and eventually made it to fourth.

The Finn led three other Grand Prix before a car failure late in the race -- once on the final lap.

Raikkonen has a slight edge over the Spaniard on the 4.3km Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo. He finished second at the track in the past two races, while Alonso was fourth and third.

Raikkonen even had a victory briefly in 2003 when torrential rain stopped the race. At first Raikkonen was given the win but a check of the positions had Giancarlo Fisichella leading at the right time. There is a chance of rain tomorrow.

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