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Analysis: Alonso Cruises Towards Title

After his victory at Hockenheim at the weekend, Formula One Championship leader Fernando Alonso must really be starting to like Germany

Twice in the last two months, the 23-year-old Renault driver has arrived in the country seemingly on the back foot after McLaren victories and watched as the black and silver cars dominated practice and qualifying.

Both times, however, the Spaniard has been a beneficiary of the fragility of the McLaren challenge, most dramatically when Kimi Raikkonen's wheel came off on the last lap of the European Grand Prix at Nurburgring in May and less so at the weekend when the Finn experienced a hydraulic failure halfway through the German Grand Prix.

On both occasions Alonso was cruising in second place and took full advantage of his rival's misfortune to win the race. Sunday's victory extended his lead over Raikkonen in the title race to 36 points with 70 up for grabs.

As Michael Schumacher and Ferrari have shown throughout their five seasons of Formula One dominance, having a fast car is not enough to win World Championships: a successful team must build a car that can last the distance every race.

"You have to finish races to win them and that is what we managed today," Renault team boss Flavio Briatore said on Sunday.

With the kind of reliability that the Renaults have shown this season, Alonso looks set fair to claim his first world title, possibly at the Belgian Grand Prix in the second week of September.

Raikkonen left the circuit immediately after his car ground to halt and although the quotes attributed to him by the team said he thought the title race was still alive, the 25-year-old will know it will now take some extraordinary to stop Alonso.

Even McLaren's pleasure at watching their other driver Juan Pablo Montoya's race from 20th on the grid to second will have been tempered by the knowledge that the Colombian, who spun off in qualifying, should never been on the back row to start with.

Jenson Button's third place is likely to heat up the fight for the Briton's services for next season between his current team BAR and ailing Williams, a battle that could end up being decided in court.

Schumacher, fifth in what was likely to be his last home Gand Prix as World Champion, was clearly struggling with the pace and being overtaken by Button and Alonso's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella will have hurt the German.

The 36-year-old conceded that his quest for a sixth consecutive world title with Ferrari was over but those expecting his imminent retirement may be in for a long wait.

Alonso had only won one Grand Prix before this season and he returns to the scene of that 2003 triumph next weekend for the Hungarian Grand Prix looking to take the next step in his march towards the most glittering prize in motorsport.

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