A relaxed, optimistic Alonso only frowns over Ferrari

A relaxed, optimistic Alonso only frowns over FerrariPortimao, Portugal  - If his optimism and his coolness are anything to go by, Fernando Alonso has half a Formula 1 title - the third of his personal count - in his pocket already, even before the 2009 season starts on March 29 in Australia.

In southern Portugal, where the year's first joint tests were being held until Thursday, only one word could take away the Spaniard's smile: Ferrari.

"I've been having to answer that question for five years," he complained at a press conference in the brand new Portimao circuit, when asked by a journalist.

No, he has nothing to say about Ferrari, to whom he has repeatedly been linked by rumours.

"Maybe if we win two or three races we can forget about Ferrari," he said.

Alonso insists he is thinking about his team, Renault, and about the present, "not about 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013."

And the present looks rosy for the driver who won the Formula 1 world championship in 2005 and 2006.

"My goal is to win the drivers' title and the constructors' title," he says of the upcoming season.

With a serious and challenging look on his face, the Spaniard says the new car can win races.

He is aware of the pressure that puts on him and on his whole team. However, Alonso does not "feel" that pressure these days - he is having fun in his job, and he is not afraid to say it.

"When you are waiting for your first title everything is more complicated, any mistake is more serious," he says.

Following a very quiet winter holiday, in which he admitted that he "almost only ate, slept and rode a bicycle," Alonso looks more relaxed than ever.

At age 27, he is one of the veterans in Formula 1.

"I had not thought about that, that's true," smiled the man who first rode a kart at age 3.

He is not too enthusiastic about the new wave of changes imposed by the motorsport federation FIA, but he knows the modifications are necessary.

"We have to accept them," he admits.

However, he wants more continuity.

"Constant changes confuse spectators. It is as if in football you changed the offside rule every year."

Of the criticism that has been poured on Renault's new car, which many journalists in Portimao have termed "ugly," Alonso stood up for designers.

"The new shapes are striking, that's true, but it is a matter of getting used to them. When we see a photo of 2008 cars in three or four months, we are going to find them strange."

However, the Spaniard stressed that drivers have no voice in the car's look. They only help and express their views in tests, to explain how the vehicle behaves in turns, for example.

Alonso is only set to drive the new R29 in Portugal Wednesday and Thursday.

"They asked me and I opted not to drive on the first days, because there are always problems in the first days," he joked, to journalists' laughter.

He still does not know his new weapon too well, because it was his Brazilian team-mate Nelsinho Piquet who had to face the rain at Portimao Monday. Alonso only did a few laps on a bicycle.

However, the end of last season, with two race wins and more points than any other driver, gave the Spaniard "great confidence."

"Halfway through the year nobody was counting on us," he recalls.

For Alonso, "everything is possible" in the upcoming season, which he described as "one of the most open and hardest-fought" he has seen, with more teams and pilots fighting for the title.

If Alonso got upset when asked about Ferrari, he became thoughtful over a question about the retirement of Ron Dennis, his former boss at McLaren-Mercedes.

"We were never the best of friends, but I have great respect for him. It is difficult to do what he did, to stay at the top for so long." (dpa)