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Alonso not underestimating rival teams

Former world champion Fernando Alonso is not ruling out any of his rivals staging a big surprise at the Australian Grand Prix - despite being confident with the work his Renault team has done this winter

The Spaniard is bullish that Renault is good enough to fight for a podium and victory from the first race, but he still remains cautious that other teams - especially Brawn GP - could stage a shock.

"The times set by the Brawn cars in testing are impressive and suggest they will be racing at the front in Melbourne," Alonso said in an interview with Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun on Wednesday.

"However, testing is one thing and racing is another, and as with our other competitors there could be some surprises this year.

"Obviously the performance of Brawn GP is a big surprise for everyone and I think they will be strong. McLaren have not looked so competitive recently but until we get to Melbourne we won't know how the teams really compare as you should never read too much into testing times. I wouldn't want to underestimate any of our rivals."

Alonso says he is pleased with Renault's progress over the winter, especially since the team's first test of the R29 had not been a great success.

"We finished last year strongly and we want to start the new season fighting for podiums and race wins," he said.

"But before the start of the season it's difficult to really know how we compare with the other teams, even though the times in testing suggest that all the teams are closely matched. We will therefore go to Melbourne aiming to win but knowing that we will have a real fight on our hands.

"I think you can always improve and last year I learnt a lot of things that have made me a better driver. This year I will continue to give my maximum to make sure we get the most from the car and maximise every opportunity."

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