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Alonso fears tight race in Melbourne
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Fernando Alonso expects a tight battle at the opening race of the Formula One season in Melbourne this weekend, with more teams and drivers in contention after major changes to the regulations.

The two-time former world champion, who finished 2008 with a flourish by picking up wins in two of the last four races, is looking for a strong start to his year.

"In the past Albert Park has been a good track for Renault and so I hope we can have a strong weekend," said the Spaniard, who rejoined Renault last year after an unhappy season driving alongside Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2007.

"I think the order of the teams will probably be different from the last few years as we have got used to Ferrari and McLaren dominating, but with the new rules I think there will be lots of cars fighting for the win.

"Hopefully we will be in that fight."

The new rules are aimed at creating more overtaking opportunities while at the same time reducing costs.

The most significant changes relate to aerodynamics, with smaller rear wings and wider front wings which, for the first time since 1969, may be adjusted by the driver, twice per lap.

"We finished in a strong position last year and this year our goal is to fight for the championship," added Alonso, who will once again drive alongside Brazilian Nelson Piquet junior.

"But we have lots of new regulations this year and nobody really knows what will happen in Melbourne.

"From what we have seen in testing it seems all the teams are very close and so we will certainly have a fight on our hands."

Renault's engineering director Pat Symonds is adamant that the team's R29 car is capable of consistently being in the mix.

"The target I set at the beginning of the season is always the same: to be winning races and challenging for the championship - it would be wrong to have any other intention," said Symonds.

"However, when you start tempering your expectations with reality, you may moderate that target a little bit.

"Nonetheless, I do believe that we've got a car that is good enough to challenge for wins and when you combine that with our drivers and the team's ability to go racing, I'm fairly confident we can deliver a strong start to the season."

(AFP via China Daily March 25, 2009)

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