McLaren are title favourites, says 'new man' Alonso

Updated: 2007-01-16 09:10

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 ago.

"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 very optimistic.

"For sure in January we are all optimistic...but I think we can do it," he said.

"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 me."

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."

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