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Renault's Alonso sets pace at F1 testing

FERNANDO Alonso was fastest in Formula One testing yesterday for Renault, which again showed that it could prove a worthy challenger for the world title this season.

The two-time world champion timed 1 minute, 19.945 seconds at the Jerez Circuit to edge Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen with the day's fastest lap time.

Alonso is gaining confidence in the French team's ability to compete for its first title since 2006, when he was also behind the wheel.

"I'm very happy with the result from this test as we had two trouble-free days, a very consistent car and the work we have done has been very useful," Alonso said. "It was really windy today, especially from midmorning onwards, which made it difficult to understand some of the set-up changes, but all the teams were in the same position and we were still able to learn some important things about the car."

BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld finished third ahead of Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber of Red Bull.

World champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren was seventh - over 1.3 seconds back of Alonso, his former McLaren teammate - from having to deal with the blustery conditions after missing out on the morning part of the session to fit new parts to the rear suspension.

Force India wrapped up its first test of the season with Adrian Sutil finishing last and having to deal with tire adjustments.

"The biggest problem was with the graining. It happens very quickly, then gets worse and the grip never comes back," the German driver said. "We are talking big differences in lap times - I have never had such a big graining issue, but I can see nearly everyone is struggling with a similar problem."


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