Alonso Ready to Step Up

By: Anthony Fontanelle

Going into the French Grand Prix, double world champion Fernando Alonso is trailing rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' championship standings. But the Spaniard has made it known that he will be stepping up his game to take his third championship in a row. The next race will be held where Alonso has performed well in the past and this is an advantage for him over the rookie.

Several weeks ago, the champion has been making comments about the way McLaren is treating both its drivers. Alonso said that McLaren's crew celebrated more with Hamilton than with him. Recently though, Alonso said that he is now comfortable with the way team McLaren Mercedes is treating him and Hamilton as equals.

"The situation is good," said Alonso. "It is only rumors that have been in the press and I think that is impossible to stop."

"I think in a way it has been a good surprise how quick the car has been. I left Renault last year and was not so sure about what the McLaren would be like at the beginning of the season, but I found a very good car straightaway," continued Alonso. The Spaniard has already won two races this season in the new MP4-22. His wins came at the Malaysian and Monaco Grands Prix.

"I was able to win two races out of the first seven (of 2007) and I'm second in the drivers' championship with the team leading the constructors', so it has been a very positive first half of the season. For sure I would like to be first and leading both championships, but for that I need to be a little bit quicker than in the first seven races," added Alonso.

Although Ferrari has posted the fastest lap times in the practice session held at the Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours, Alonso is confident that McLaren will continue its lead in the constructor's championship. The Spaniard is, of course known, for taking two pole positions at the French Grand Prix in the past. Alonso won at the circuit in 2005 when he won his first championship. Last year, the Spaniard finished second behind the retired seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.

"(Testing) was good for us too," said Alonso after the Friday practice session headlined by the two Ferraris. "I think as a team we improved our car and our performance. We had some new bits on the car regarding aerodynamics, suspension and brakes, and many other new things. We developed the car and it should be competitive again here in France," added the Spaniard.

As for the tracks, Alonso emphasized that his knowledge and apparent liking to the track will be an advantage. "I like the circuit a lot. I always enjoy driving at Magny-Cours; I drove here for Renault and I had a lot of fans and support. This year will maybe be a little bit different because the grandstand will not be with McLaren so much as they were with Renault, but it should still be a good weekend."

Meanwhile, Hamilton's -equipped MP4-22 suffered a technical malfunction during the morning practice session Friday. "This morning was a little frustrating as I missed some track time when the engine protection system came in as a result of the engine running too cool and I stopped on track," explained the rookie sensation.

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