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Alonso looks to increase lead in France

World champion Fernando Alonso is optimistic he can return to winning ways at this weekend's French Grand Prix following Ferrari's dominant performance at Indianapolis

Alonso saw his lead to Michael Schumacher reduced to 19 points after the German Ferrari driver scored his third win of the season at the United States Grand Prix in dominant fashion.

Renault driver Alonso had to settle for a distant fifth place.

But the Spaniard will return to Magny-Cours this weekend, a track where he emerged victorious in 2005, and Alonso is expecting to bounce back and increase his championship lead once again.

"I won four races in a row before Indy, but I always said that the championship was not over, and it sounded really pessimistic," said Alonso.

"But a gap of 25 points before Indy didn't mean that we would be champions automatically, and now that the gap is 19 points, we cannot be pessimistic and think the advantage will disappear quickly.

"You have to look at the big picture for the championship. I was first or second at nine of the ten races - and in the next eight races, I think we will be able to keep on winning and increase the lead even more."

Before the Indianapolis race, Alonso had not finished outside of the podium this year, scoring a total of 84 points out of a possible 90.

The world champion admits the start of the year was better than he had hoped.

"It has been better than we expected at the beginning of the year," said Alonso of the first half of his season. "With all the new rules for 2006, we were a little bit worried about starting the season with a brand new car, and a brand new V8 engine.

"The team did a fantastic job over the winter though, and when we got to the race we were 100% ready. That's what allowed us to have such a good start to the year."

Teammate Giancarlo Fisichella is also optimistic of a strong weekend for Renault in their home race, following his third place at Indianapolis.

"I had a really strong weekend in Indianapolis. I had a good feeling with the car straight away but even so, I left with mixed feelings," said the Italian. "I felt that I did the maximum possible in finishing third, but we were still a long way off Ferrari.

"So for Magny-Cours, my goal is to maintain my personal level of performance - but from a position where we can beat both Ferraris. The team has been working hard to develop the car all season, and we have another engine step this weekend in France which will give us a boost.

"I am optimistic that Michelin will have a perfect tyre, so we want a weekend without problems to be able to give our fans they victory they want to see."

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