Alonso Wrestles with Celebrity Status

Renault's Fernando Alonso says he can handle being the first Spaniard to lead the Formula One World Championship

Alonso Wrestles with Celebrity Status

The unbridled enthusiasm of compatriots, fired up by his victory in the last Malaysian Grand Prix, has been more of a problem however.

"Leading the Championship is not really a problem," the 23-year-old told a news conference before Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix. "It is not giving me any more pressure because we only did two races.

"Maybe I would feel pressure if we were in the last two races and I was leading the Championship but now is not the real picture. So we have to forget and think race by race."

Alonso finished third in the Australian season-opener and has 16 points to second-placed Italian teammate Giancarlo Fisichella's 10. Ferrari's seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher has just two points but has a new car for Sunday's race at Sakhir.

There are still 16 Grands Prix to come after Bahrain in the longest Formula One season yet.

Schumacher, who would be mobbed by fans were he to walk down the street in his native Germany, lives in Switzerland while Alonso prefers a quiet life in the English city of Oxford to his homeland. To the Spanish driver's discomfort, that did not stop a throng of fans and media gathering outside his parents' house in Oviedo after his victory in Malaysia.

Crowd Problem

"Really in Spain it went too far, all the people, especially journalists, and this is a problem," said Alonso. "It is not what I want, for them to be in front of my house waiting for a picture, and if they think they have to do that it is their problem.

"They were in front of my parents' house and I was not there, I was with a friend and I watched on television what they were doing."

There is little prospect of their fervour waning, however, with Alonso and Fisichella likely to be challenging strongly for the team's unprecedented third win in a row on Sunday.

"It is nice to compete and to fight for the race with your teammate because it means the car is more competitive than the others," said the Spaniard. "Ferrari is a very strong team, one of the favourites for all the Grands Prix, and now with their new car for sure they will have more potential and they will be more competitive than the last race.

"But Renault won the first two Grands Prix and is the team to beat. Last year it (Bahrain) was not a perfect track for us... but this year we have a completely different package.

"We have a very strong engine, a very nice car aerodynamically and everything can change. I am quite convinced that we will have a competitive car here and can fight for the podium. Minimum."

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