Alonso eyes 3rd win after halting F1's record run
LONDON (AP) - After breaking free from a pack of title contenders, Fernando Alonso's task at the British Grand Prix is to ensure that advantage in the Formula One championship isn't now thrown away.
The season had produced seven different winners from the opening seven races until Alonso halted the record-breaking run by becoming the first driver to take the checkered flag twice in 2012.
With a 20-point lead over Red Bull's Mark Webber established at the European GP, Alonso returns to the Silverstone circuit, where he won for a second time last year. With showers forecast for race weekend in central England, in this most unpredictable of seasons Sunday's result could be even harder to predict.
No wonder Alonso's Ferrari team is being so cautious.
"I don't want outsiders to think that one win is enough for us to put on a fireworks display,'' Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said on the team website.
Di Montezemolo stressed after the win in Valencia on June 24 that Alonso collecting 25 points "will definitely not go to our heads.''
"We are well aware how things can change in the blink of an eye,'' he said. "And we must continue to work on improving the car's performance, because it is still not at the level we want.''
Ferrari engineer Rob Smedley is already helping to develop a quicker car for Alonso and teammate Felipe Massa.
"In Valencia we didn't have the quickest car, but compared to the start of the year, we had a much improved car,'' he said. "However, our car has always been particularly suited to high speed corners and Silverstone is dominated by high speed turns for almost two thirds of the track.''
McLaren's British drivers, though, will be determined to stop Alonso winning at home. Particularly Jenson Button, who has failed to win - or even make the podium - at the British GP in 12 attempts.
The 2009 world champion was forced to retire on lap 40 of last year's race when his crew failed to secure the right front wheel at a pit stop and he ground to a halt after leaving the garage.
"Silverstone is a circuit that suits the McLaren,'' Button said. "It's high speed so it should be a circuit where we're quick. We have good down force at high speed, which is something we don't probably have at low speed, so the car should be strong there. It's a very mixed season, which means it's sometimes difficult to know where your car is going to work well.''
Button has plunged to eighth in the standings, having been second after three races.
"I know I'm a long way behind and that I've put myself in a very difficult situation,'' he said. "I know I've made it more difficult for myself compared to most other people, but you never give up until it's not possible anymore.''
Already 62 points behind Alonso, Button is also 39 points behind third-place McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton.
"Although he's not been on the podium (at Silverstone), it's not been for a lack of ability, it's been for a lack of opportunity, the lack of a car, reliability and stuff,'' Hamilton said of Button. "But his day will come, and when it does, I hope I'm there as well.''
Hamilton hasn't won his home race since 2008, when he went on to win the championship. Hamilton's priority on Sunday will be closing the 23-point gap to Alonso after being shunted into a wall by Williams' Pastor Maldonado in Valencia last month.
"(Alonso) can be caught,'' Hamilton said. "All it takes is for them to have one hiccup, and for us to have a good weekend, and we're right back up there.''
That optimism is also being echoed at Red Bull.
Like Hamilton, two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel failed to finish in Valencia, stalling midway through the race after starting from pole. But Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is sure Vettel's rocky form will come to an end after teammate Webber rose to second with his fourth-place finish in Valencia.
"To that point it was our most competitive showing in a grand prix this year,'' Horner said. "Whilst very annoying to lose a race like that, we drew some comfort from the fact the car was so quick.''
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