Alonso ready to defend title


Motor Sport: Becoming Formula One's youngest world champion has changed Fernando Alonso's approach to racing.

The Spaniard won seven races last year, the same number as McLaren's runner-up Kimi Raikkonen, but was always well ahead thanks to his consistency in scoring points.

"I always arrived at the first race in the past thinking to be fighting for the races or to be on the podiums or winning races," the Renault driver told a news conference before Sunday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

"Now, I am much more confident in myself and much more looking forward to the championship at the end, to be world champion again," said the 24-year-old Spaniard.

"It doesn't matter how many races you win, it's only a matter of being champion at the end. That is a different approach."

Alonso  won three of the first four grands prix, including Bahrain, and wrapped up the title in Brazil with two races to spare. Renault sealed the constructors' crown despite winning fewer races than McLaren.

Sometimes Alonso played a tactical game, banking safe points rather than going all out for victory.

"We arrive ready again, the new car is competitive and strong enough to be quick on the race pace. I think we are ready for the first race," said Alonso, who has already signed a contract to join McLaren in 2007.

The Spaniard said that move would make him stronger as there would be one less distraction.

"I see 2006 as the year to defend the title and win again," he said when asked whether it would be merely a transitional season for him. "It's the last year in Renault and I need to win for them and for me and I will do my maximum.

"I see it as much more relaxed now and I can really concentrate on winning this year and not talking about which team I will be at next year."