Alonso, Spanish Crowd Delight Each Other

Fernando Alonso may not have delivered the ultimate prize of victory in his home Spanish Grand Prix but he was still very much his nation's sporting hero on Sunday

Alonso, Spanish Crowd Delight Each Other

A huge, record crowd at the Circuit de Catalunya greeted the Renault driver as a champion in waiting and the 23-year-old reciprocated by praising the fans for creating an unforgettable atmosphere.

Alonso's surge to the top of the World Championship standings has been good for Formula One, finally providing the sport with a candidate to wrest the crown from Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.

"For me today, this is the same feeling as winning ... The crowd was hoping for a win, but on the lap-in I could see they were still happy," Alonso said.

"That's five races and five podiums. I've said many times this year that this start to the season is something I would never have expected," he told the post-race news conference.

"We must carry on like this, it's the only way to be happy and have confidence."

The Oviedo-born driver had knocked soccer off the front pages of Spanish newspapers with victories in the previous three races, most notably the memorable duel with seven-times World Champion Schumacher at Imola two weeks ago.

"I think everyone enjoyed the race, the grandstand, the people, and it was a big party," Alonso said.

"I have to say thanks to the people but I think not only me but all of Formula One sport has to say thanks for the atmosphere we had."

Alonso, who made his debut for the Minardi team in 2001 and first impressed a wider audience with a victory for Renault in Hungary in 2003, is reluctant to talk about the Championship nor write off the Ferraris.

"It's difficult with this points system to recover but with two or three retirements it can change completely because there are still 14, 15 races to go," he said. "I think to talk about the Championship is not really interesting."

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