Raikkonen Can Win Title, Say McLaren

McLaren believe Monaco Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen can beat Renault's Fernando Alonso to this year's Formula One title

Raikkonen Can Win Title, Say McLaren

The Finn, championship runner-up to Ferrari's Michael Schumacher in 2003, has won the last two races from pole position and could easily have made it three but for a driveshaft failure while leading in San Marino.

"Kimi's come close before and he can win this championship," McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh said after Sunday's race.

With 13 races remaining, Spaniard Alonso has 49 points to the Finn's 27, a lead that will take time to overturn, but McLaren are within striking distance of Renault in the constructors' championship on 51 points to the leaders' 63.

"Clearly Kimi is making the strongest thrust for the championship in our team at the moment and he will, I'm sure, be determined to go on and win quite a few more races," Whitmarsh said.

"But I think (Colombian teammate) Juan Pablo (Montoya) will also win races this year and that's going to be good for the team."

Raikkonen's problem is that what is good for the team is not necessarily good for him.

If Montoya, fifth on Sunday after starting in 16th place, starts to win too then that could play into Alonso's hands. McLaren will certainly not be favouring one driver over the other.

Plug Away

"Juan Pablo is an immensely competitive racer and he'll be saying I am going to beat him (Raikkonen) at the next race," Whitmarsh said.

"That's the philosophy of McLaren, we'd like to see both of our drivers trying to beat each other and drawing motivation from that competition between themselves.

"They are both really tough racers and we look forward to some really good competition between the two of them."

Montoya's season has yet to get going, the Colombian missing two races through injury and making life difficult for himself by being sent to the back of the Monaco grid for causing an avoidable accident in practice.

He was also delayed in Spain by a faulty fuelling rig and has just 14 points so far.

Otherwise, he could have been third in Spain and second in Monaco and the championship would already be looking very different.

However, it may not stay a Renault-McLaren battle for long.

Although Ferrari and Schumacher have gone seven races without a win, the defending champion set the fastest lap in Monaco and showed plenty of determination on Sunday in scrapping with teammate Rubens Barichello and brother Ralf for the tail-end points.

Once they can overcome their qualifying problems, Ferrari will be back in business even if, with just 12 points, Schumacher's eighth title looks highly unlikely.

BAR will also return from a two race suspension at the Nurburgring for next weekend's European Grand Prix, adding another ingredient into the mix.

Renault meanwhile have questions to answer.

Alonso, fourth on Sunday after struggling with heavy tyre wear, remains the most consistent driver but he had hoped for far more from a race that Renault won last year.

"Today we deserved zero points and Fernando walked away with five. It's a good sign for the future," said team boss Flavio Briatore unconvincingly.

"But we need to really understand why we have this kind of a problem with the tyre."

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