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Maybe it's a political move, but two weeks ahead of the launch of his team's 2013 contender, Fernando Alonso insists that he is under no obligation to win.
While Sebastian Vettel picked up the 2012 title, in the eyes of many Alonso was the 'Peoples' Champion', the Spaniard having taken the title fight down to the wire in a car that flattered to deceive. Along the way, the double world champion gave some of the best performances of an already impressive career, refusing to surrender.
However, despite the craving for success of his team, its fans and the media, Alonso says that the 2013 challenge will not mean additional pressure.
"I don't think there is necessarily an obligation to win," he told reporters at Madonna di Campiglio. "Sport means sacrifice, work, enjoyment of what one does and for the past three years, I've been fortunate to be in the fight for important targets.
"There are 24 drivers in Formula One," he continued, "and few of them can say they have won races and usually finished on the podium. Since I've been at Ferrari, two out of three times I have come very close to being world champion, which is the target for me and for a team like ours and I hope I can now make that three times out of four.
"I'm confident I can start the season with a better car than the one we had in the first few months of last year. It was actually in the early races that we lost decisive points, when we had a car that was only good enough for seventh, as was the case in China or ninth in Bahrain. The fact we are working with just one wind tunnel, the Toyota one in Cologne, could be a small advantage."
Partnered with Felipe Massa for the fourth successive season, Alonso was at pains to pay tribute to the Brazilian who retains his seat despite a poor start to his 2012 campaign.
"I have always said that Felipe was one of the best drivers around and I still remember that some people smiled when I said this last year," said the Spaniard. "He and I have always helped one another, day by day and I expect him to always be very close to me in terms of performance: what was not normal was the difference between us over the past two years, but now I don't think that will be the case. That will be a very positive factor for me and especially for the team."
Alonso also sees the arrival of fellow Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa as being very positive. "When there are new arrivals in high level teams, it is always important," he said. "Pedro will work mainly on the simulator, an area where we were not at the same level as the best and his experience will be useful. Having said that, it's not the case that a new driver can change things or can do it in the simulator: there are and there will be further and more significant new arrivals that can make the team grow."
Check out our Madonna di Campiglio gallery, here.
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