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Preview: Raikkonen to Make Alonso Sweat

McLaren 'Iceman' Kimi Raikkonen can turn the heat on Renault's Championship leader Fernando Alonso in Sunday's first Turkish Grand Prix

The two rivals are separated by 26 points with six races remaining, still a comfortable margin for Spaniard Alonso, but Raikkonen has the momentum as they prepare for battle at Istanbul's new Speed Park.

The Finn won the last Hungarian Grand Prix, while Alonso and Renault failed to score, and can realistically hope to rein in his rival further with his fifth win of the year on what promises to be a sweltering afternoon.

Raikkonen has the advantage of running last in qualifying at a circuit unfamiliar to all the drivers and can also count on invaluable extra input from the team's third driver Pedro de la Rosa in Friday practice.

While de la Rosa puts in the laps to focus on tyre choice, compatriot Alonso will have to think about set-up while protecting an engine that has already been through the heat of Budapest and must now withstand Istanbul's August temperatures.

Because of their strong performance last season, Renault are not allowed an extra car on race Fridays. Despite that, Alonso remains confident.

"It was a bit of a surprise for us that we had problems in Hungary but in reality I think the car could have been pretty competitive with a trouble-free race," said the 24-year-old winner of six of the season's races so far.

"Of course, that doesn't matter because the fact is we didn't score points, and we need to do that in Turkey. But we still have a strong car and the team is very motivated."

Renault are 12 points clear of McLaren in the Constructors' Championship.

Changed Landscape

Turkey is a journey into the unknown for all the drivers after a brief August vacation and security promises to be tight in a country that has suffered a series of bomb attacks in recent months.

The authorities have invested 300 million new lira ($220 million) in the track, surrounding infrastructure and roads and are hoping for a considerable boost to an already booming tourist industry.

"We are ready for Formula One. Every measure has been taken in terms of security, customs, health, power and telecommunications," Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said.

The undulating track itself runs anti-clockwise, one of just three such circuits in the Championship, and is the creation of Hermann Tilke - the German architect responsible for all the latest additions to the calendar.

Ferrari's seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, who has plenty of experience with new tracks, could even claim a share of one of the few Formula One records he does not already hold on Saturday.

The German needs one more pole position to equal the previously unrivalled 65 of the late Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna after taking his 64th in Budapest.

"I haven't seen much of it but I know that it's quite hilly and apparently has long fast turns. And that sounds good for a start," Schumacher said of the circuit.

Turkey will also be the first race since the announcement that Schumacher's Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello will be joining BAR next year, with compatriot Felipe Massa leaving Sauber for Ferrari.

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