Renault must work harder to keep title, says Alonso
SEPANG, Malaysia, Mar 16 (Reuters) Renault's Fernando Alonso thinks it will be much harder for him to retain the Formula One world championship than it was to win it.
Alonso won the opening race of the season at Bahrain last weekend but with Ferrari's seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher back on the pace and McLaren and Honda looking quick, the Spaniard will have his work cut out in 2006.
''It will be harder for sure,'' he told reporters at the Malaysian Grand Prix today.
''Last year we fought only with McLaren and if you had a very bad weekend you finished fourth because there were no more teams.
''This year, if you have a bad weekend, you can finish seventh or eighth and that's not enough points to win the championship if you finish in these positions.
''So we have to be more concentrated, we have to develop the car more, we have to work harder because we have four teams pushing for wins.'' Alonso said he thought Ferrari would be the biggest challengers when Bridgestone tyres were better suited to a circuit with McLaren and Honda putting on the pressure at races where Michelins had the advantage.
Despite the increased competition, Alosno will not be changing his pragmatic approach to racing.
''I arrive same as last year, thinking that I have to be consistent to win the championship, that I can't make any mistakes,'' he said.
''I need to finish races, to finish on the podium and when the car is quick and competitive we will have the possibility to win and when we don't have this possibility we have to think of second place, or even third.
''But we always have to be thinking that we want to repeat the championship win.'' When Alonso arrived in Malaysia last year, he had won only one grand prix in his career and was not even the top driver in his team with Giancarlo Fischella having won the season-opener in Australia.
But the former Minardi driver took the honours at Sepang and then went on to win another six races to become Formula One's youngest world champion.
Now the expectation is that he will win races and the 24-year-old, who has signed up to race for McLaren from next season, welcomes the favourite tag.
''Last year nobody had confidence in me or Renault, this year everybody's thinking about Renault and Alonso and I like this, being the favourites,'' he said.
''I am confident, Malaysia has been a good track for the Renault car and I think this year it will be the same.'' REUTERS PM PM1441