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October 2, 2009

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Pressure already on Alonso

NEW Ferrari signing Fernando Alonso is already under pressure to deliver the Italian team a Formula One title.

Ferrari confirmed yesterday that Alonso would leave Renault and join the team for 2010 on a three-year contract. There had been a previous agreement - made public yesterday - for him to join in 2011, but he will arrive a year early after Ferrari agreed to pay out the 2010 contract of ousted driver Kimi Raikkonen.

"There will be a pressure to win titles," Alonso said from Suzuka, site of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

"At Ferrari it is not enough to win one race per year or anything like that. The pressure will be there to be champion again. In the next three years hopefully I can win one at least."

Alonso will partner Felipe Massa, creating a potential headache for the team as it seeks to placate two drivers who will feel they should be the natural No. 1 within the Maranello outfit. But Alonso foresees no problem.

"It will work," Alonso said. "Felipe we know is a great driver, a quick driver but also a good personality. He will be absolutely fine."

Alonso had a fractious relationship with Lewis Hamilton in their one season together at McLaren in 2007, when the team did not give preference to either driver. The Spaniard said he had learnt from that experience.

"It will not happen again," Alonso said. "This is a very different history. I am also more prepared than I was two years ago. It will be fine.

"Ferrari is more important than any driver in the car. It doesn't matter if you are quicker or slower than your teammate - the Ferrari people want to see a red car in front of the other cars, it doesn't matter which driver is driving."

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said the Alonso-Massa partnership will be handled in the same even-handed manner as the Raikkonen-Massa one.

Asked how the team would manage a potential clash of egos, Domenicali said: "The same way we controlled Felipe and Kimi for the past two years."

The move, the biggest in the sport since Michael Schumacher signed with Ferrari in 1996, had the blessing of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

"It's good for Fernando, good for Formula One, good for Ferrari," Ecclestone said. "It's looking good isn't it. Next year will be a good year."

The Alonso signing was a bold statement by Ferrari of its intention to return to the pinnacle of F1 after a disappointing 2009 campaign.

"His contribution will be very important to bring Ferrari back to the level where it has to be, to fight at the top," Domenicali said.

Alonso will see out the rest of this season with Renault, where he won both his world titles. Renault said that a replacement driver would be named next week. BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica is top of the list.


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