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Normal service to be resumed in France, say Renault

Written by: Staff

LONDON, July 3 (Reuters) Fernando Alonso's winning run has ended but Renault's Formula One world champion remained unruffled.

The 24-year-old Spaniard expects 'normal service' to be resumed at his team's home French Grand Prix next week.

While Indianapolis revived Ferrari and Michael Schumacher's title hopes, with the German celebrating his third victory of the season, Alonso was inclined to view the U.S. Grand Prix as a one-off.

''I am not worried for the next grands prix,'' he said after finishing fifth with his lead over Schumacher slashed from 25 to 19 points.

''Sometimes we can win, sometimes not. I am already looking forward to the next race, where I think we will see a more usual balance of competitiveness between Renault and Ferrari.'' Bridgestone, Ferrari's partners, had clearly the better-performing tyre for a circuit that has never favoured rivals Michelin.

Even if they denied playing safe, Michelin were taking no risks on their return to Indiana after last year's fiasco when all their seven teams, including Renault, pulled out for safety reasons.

''The tyres we brought this weekend were designed to give us a combination of durability and performance,'' said Michelin F1 director Nick Shorrock. ''We succeeded handsomely in the first part of our quest...but, for once, fell short in the second.'' POINTS GAINED Last year, Alonso left North America empty-handed from the races in Canada and Indianapolis but still won the championship at a canter. This year he departs with 14 points.

The Brickyard ended a run of four successive wins and 15 podium finishes in a row, but the Spaniard could live with that.

''It was 15 points after Nuerburgring (in May). Now, five races later, it is 19 points,'' Alonso told reporters. ''The races keep going and the gap never decreases below 15 points. So it's a comfortable gap.'' Alonso won at Magny-Cours last year and Renault have every confidence that they can do it again, particularly with the champion having a new engine.

''I think it is important to keep things in perspective,'' said chief strategist and engineering head Pat Symonds.

''Indianapolis is an unusual circuit with some unique characteristics.

''In 2005, we had our worst part of the championship in North America. This year we are coming away with 25 points.

''We got beaten this weekend, and nobody in the team likes losing. But we are ready to fight. We have a very aggressive development programme in place for the coming races and we hope to be much more competitive in France.

''I expect normal service to be resumed in Magny-Cours which means a tight, intriguing battle between ourselves, Ferrari and McLaren,'' added Symonds.

Schumacher's win, in Ferrari's first real one-two since Monza 2004, was the result that team had been dreaming of since emerging from their 2005 slump.

It was their most dominant performance since Schumacher ran away with his seventh crown two years ago.

''We knew that if all the pieces of the jigsaw -- reliability, consistent performance from the Bridgestone tyres, the work of drivers and the team -- fitted together, we were capable of getting the job done,'' said team boss Jean Todt.

''This is the best possible start to the second half of the season and a one-two finish is a further encouragement to tackle the remaining races in the best possible way.'' REUTERS PDS RN2023

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