Preview: Spain Revs Up for Alonso

Spaniards will flock to Barcelona in their thousands this weekend, willing Renault's Formula One Championship leader Fernando Alonso on to victory in his home Grand Prix

Preview: Spain Revs Up for Alonso

If the 23-year-old lives up to soaring expectations, his fourth win in a row will make history while preventing Ferrari's Michael Schumacher from adding another record to his already extensive collection.

A sell-out crowd of 115,000 is expected at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday hoping for a first Spanish winner since the country first hosted a round of the World Championship in 1951.

Alonso, already the first Spaniard to win a race and lead the Championship, could oblige.

His nose-to-wheel duel to the chequered flag with Schumacher at the last San Marino Grand Prix was a masterpiece of controlled, defensive driving and provided one of the most thrilling finishes in years.

Barcelona promises to be just as fierce a fight.

"If you look at the results, a Renault has won the first four races of the season, so everything is still there to fight for," said the Spaniard, who has twice as many points as his nearest rival.

"Historically, Barcelona has been a much better circuit for the team than Imola, so we have to be confident for this race," he added.

"But the other teams are very quick, and we all test there so everybody knows the circuit. I think the competition will be very close, even more than we saw in Bahrain or Imola."

Doctor's Orders

Schumacher, who hopes to equal the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna's achievement of winning the same Grand Prix for five years in a row, recognises that he has his work cut out to beat the home favourite.

He has 10 points to Alonso's 36, a far cry from last year when he arrived in Spain after winning the first four races of that season.

"His performance at Imola was highly impressive," the seven- times World Champion said of Alonso.

"He has already won three races and he is still leading the championship by far. And that makes him a hot contender for the race.

"I also think that McLaren-Mercedes and BAR will be strong," added Schumacher. "I think that Barcelona will be a close race, and of course I'm convinced that we'll also have some say in who wins it."

McLaren will be looking to Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, who started on pole in Imola and led for nine laps until a driveshaft failure halted his charge. Raikkonen has yet to finish higher than 11th in Spain.

Barcelona has usually been a race where Schumacher can count on banking 10 points. He has won there six times now, never finishing out of the points in 14 starts.

Imola, with the Champion lapping two seconds quicker than his rivals in the latter stages, showed that Ferrari and tyre partner Bridgestone were back to full strength after struggling in the first three long-haul races.

"The Grand Prix of San Marino was just what the doctor ordered for all of us," said Schumacher.

"We managed to keep our spirits up even during the messed up start of this year's season, and our performance at Imola proved that we were right in doing so."

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Fernando Alonso
Author Alan Baldwin
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