VALENCIA, Spain, Jan 15 - Fernando Alonso says his move from Renault to
McLaren has made a new man out of him and put him in pole position to be Formula
One world champion for the third year in a row.
Asked by reporters before the launch of the new Mercedes-powered MP4-22 car
on Monday who he felt was the championship favourite, the 25-year-old Spaniard
did not hesitate.
"McLaren. Us," he replied. "I don't know how the Ferrari is, how the Renault
is, but I have full confidence in ourselves.
"All the information I have about the wind tunnel and the engine side is so
promising and so optimistic that if that info on paper is real on the track we
will have a very good car," added Alonso.
"I think we will be strong."
McLaren failed to win a race last year, for the first time in a decade, while
Alonso and Renault again swept both championships.
Alonso has had just one day in the McLaren since he left Renault, and that
was last month in a car with test driver Pedro de la Rosa's settings, and he
said he was raring to go.
Sporting a new short haircut and sounding relaxed, he said he felt
rejuvenated by a move that was first announced to the world more than a year
"I feel more ambitious now, a completely new man," he declared.
"Sometimes after a tough season, when winter comes, you want to test as late
as possible and be on holiday as much as you can and you don't want to be in the
car so early. But now is the opposite.
"I want to be in the car straight away, so I have the feelings like six years
ago when I arrived in Formula One. I just want to drive and to feel happy."
McLaren last won the drivers' championship in 1999, with Mika Hakkinen, and
have not won the constructors' crown since 1998. But they have a record second
only to Ferrari over the years in terms of race wins.
"The target is to be world champion again," said Alonso. "I think McLaren
wants to be world champion again, me too...I feel it is very possible and I am
"For sure in January we are all optimistic...but I think we can do it," he
"What I feel here (at McLaren) is a lot of professionalism, they are very
determined to win and focused on the championship. I think with all the new
sponsors and the expectations they have, it builds a new atmosphere in the team.
"When I went to the factory and I met all the people, they are so excited.
They really think that after a few years with no success, this is the year to
come back. No-one has any doubts about this and it is a complete surprise for
All teams will be on the same tyres this year, after the departure of
Michelin, and Alonso felt that too would be a benefit for McLaren.
"I think Bridgestone tyres help the McLaren performance because in the last
three tests of last year the McLaren was very quick. I felt the car to be
comfortable to drive, not difficult and quite competitive," he said.
"It was good news for us."
British rookie Lewis Hamilton, only just 22 years old, will be his team mate
in the youngest line-up on the Formula One starting grid.
Alonso saw Hamilton as a breath of fresh air and was not worried about the
Briton beating him.
"I think Lewis can help the team a lot because he is coming new to Formula
One with fresh ideas, with a fresh mentality and this is what maybe the team
needs," he said.
"I am not worried that he could be quicker."