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Wed Apr 16 21:02:07 SAST 2014

Alonso targets idol Senna's title haul

Sapa-AFP | 21 September, 2012 10:270 Comments
F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Previews
Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari in interviewed by the media at the Pan Pacific Hotel during previews to the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix on September 20, 2012 in Singapore, Singapore
Image by: Clive Mason / Getty Images

Formula One championship leader Fernando Alonso set his sights on matching Ayrton Senna’s career haul of three world titles after equalling his boyhood idol’s number of podium finishes.

The Spaniard finished third two weeks ago in Italy to claim his 80th podium spot, putting him level with the late Brazilian legend.

  He said he could scarcely believe his achievement after growing up with Senna posters on his bedroom wall. Only Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost have climbed the podium more times.

  “I feel extremely proud,” Alonso said, ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix. “When you equal some numbers of Ayrton Senna it’s always quite a big thing, especially for me.

  “I always followed his races, I had his cars, I had his poster in my room so when you have the same (number of) podiums as him it’s something you can’t believe.”  But Alonso also said he had a bigger target in mind: clinching his third drivers’ title, which would put him level with Senna’s wins in 1988, 1990 and 1991.

  Alonso, who won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006, leads the championship by 37 points with seven races to go, starting with Sunday’s night race through downtown Singapore.

  “Everything is going well in my career, I feel very well, very happy and I hope to reach more important numbers of Senna,” he said with a smile.

  However, Alonso acknowledged that McLaren were favourites for this weekend’s race after winning the last three races, including two victories for Lewis Hamilton who now lies second in the standings.

  Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen and defending world champion Sebastian Vettel are both within two points of Hamilton, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber also within touching distance.

  “Everybody’s strong at the moment and everybody’s a contender.

So there are still five or six drivers that can fight for the title,” Alonso said.

  “Lewis is a strong rival — I’ve been saying since February that Lewis is the one I respect the most, because I know what he can do with good cars and bad cars, and he’s (lying) second.”  He added: “McLaren have won the last three races and they’re again favourite for this one so we need to stop hopefully this dominant position.”  Hamilton is known to favour the tight, challenging Singapore street course, which has 23 turns as it snakes through the tropical Asian city’s spectacular harbour front.

  Sunday’s race will be preceded by a minute’s applause for safety pioneer Sid Watkins, who died this month. His innovations are credited with helping keep Formula One free of fatal accidents since Ayrton Senna’s crash in 1994.

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