Renault Thriving on Pressure

Still buzzing after the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Renault are thriving on the pressure to repeat their success in Malaysia

Renault Thriving on Pressure

Italy's Giancarlo Fisichella won in Melbourne with Spain's Fernando Alonso third and both men insisted on Friday they were happy to be called favourites for Sunday's race in Sepang.

"For me the pressure is a good thing," Alonso told Reuters. "We knew it surprised a lot of people that we were so competitive when we launched the car in Monaco. Everyone was talking about Williams, BAR, Ferrari and McLaren and...nobody believed in Renault. Now because we won the first race it's like a surprise - but not for us."

Both men smoothly negotiated Friday's practice with Fisichella sixth quickest and Alonso ninth in blazing heat during the afternoon session.

"It's really hot and really hard physically and mentally," said Fisichella. "Anything can happen but I think we have good potential and we can fight to win the race."

Fisichella's victory in Melbourne was his second and gave Formula One a shot in the arm after the crushing dominance of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. Now the little Roman is hungry for more success.

"It's just a fantastic period for me," said Fisichella. "I like it when there is a lot of pressure on me. It's good pressure so I'm really confident...and really comfortable."

Fisichella and Alonso are relishing a close battle with Ferrari after World Champion Schumacher failed to finish in Melbourne. Rubens Barrichello came in second for Ferrari.

"Ferrari will always be competitive. McLaren and BAR are also quick here," said Alonso. "Williams will be quick as well so there are three or four teams who can be on the podium. It's up to us to be there. If we do a good job we will be one of those three."

Renault have yet to win a Constructors' Championship but Alonso believes the French manufacturer could end that drought in 2005.

"We did a great job in winter testing and we knew that our new toy was a very good car," said the 23-year-old of Renault's R25 machine. "It seems now everybody understands this."

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