Preview: Raikkonen Out to End Monza Jinx

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen can succeed where compatriot Mika Hakkinen failed in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix

Preview: Raikkonen Out to End Monza Jinx

Chasing his third win in a row, the McLaren driver needs every point he can get at Monza in his fight to prevent Renault's 24-year-old title frontrunner Fernando Alonso from becoming Formula One's youngest champion.

Raikkonen is 24 points behind the Spaniard with five races remaining, meaning that Alonso will be champion so long as he finishes every race in at least third place.

The Finn's challenge is to win at a circuit that has not witnessed a McLaren victory since Briton David Coulthard triumphed in 1997.

Ferrari's home track left two-times champion Hakkinen weeping by the side of the road in 1999 after an unforced error while leading, a mistake that had the red-shirted fans whooping in delight.

Hakkinen, who retired in 2001 and made way for Raikkonen at McLaren, never won at Formula One's oldest and fastest circuit.

The younger Finn has every chance of success but must hope that Alonso or Renault slip up while also doing everything he can to reduce the gap.

"There's no way to score any more points if Alonso keeps finishing second so we just need to do the best we can and you never know what happens in the races," he said after winning in Turkey this month.

Alonso was second in that race after McLaren's Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya made a mistake that dashed the team's hopes of a first one-two finish in five years.

Montoya is out of the title reckoning but won at Monza for Williams in 2001 and also set the pace in testing last week, suggesting that McLaren will be in the driving seat.

Renault Confident

Alonso was also sounding upbeat after Istanbul.

"McLaren are very quick, there's no doubt," said the Spaniard. "But Monza is a completely different circuit to any other, so we approach it feeling confident.

"We have had good straightline speed all year, and that is one of the things you need there. So it could be a good race for us," he added.

"As long as we finish races, we are okay. If we are competitive and can get on the podium, then it will be hard to lose my advantage...I can still afford some bad races and not lose the lead.

"McLaren have the pressure to be perfect until China (the season's finale), and if they are not, we will be there to punish them," said Alonso.

McLaren are nine points behind Renault in the constructors' standings and, if Renault have a nightmare like Hungary last month, could take the lead in those standings on Sunday.

The two teams can expect to dominate the weekend, a rarity in recent years with Ferrari winning in front of their home fans since 2002 and finishing on the podium for the last five seasons.

That run of success is unlikely to continue.

Ferrari have had a miserable season by their own high standards and, after a nightmare in Turkey, seven-times champion Schumacher has already warned that points are probably all they can expect at Monza.

"Contrary to the past years, when we mostly came to Monza to fight for the win, our expectations are a bit reduced this time," said the German.

Schumacher is already 40 points behind Alonso and will be mathematically out of the title race if he fails to score more than the Spaniard on Sunday.

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