Alonso and Schumacher begin final stages of title battle

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The Independent Online

Fernando Alonso has not won a grand prix since Canada in June, but the world champion remains bullish that he can regain form on a circuit where he dominated last year as he and his arch-rival, Michael Schumacher, fight for the world title in the final three races of the season.

"These are the last three races for me with this fantastic team, and also the last races for Michelin in this era of Formula One," Alonso said. "So our motivation to win is enormous, and I think we can do it. Shanghai is one of the circuits that I enjoy. I have fantastic memories from last year, when we won the constructors' championship there. It has been designed to give overtaking opportunities, especially at the end of the long back straight. That helps make the races spectacular."

Alonso's success here last year owed much to the use of the mass dampers which stabilised the Renault, and in the first half of this season made it the car to beat. Since the FIA, the sport's world governing body, banned them before the German Grand Prix in July Alonso has struggled.

"You should never underestimate Renault," Schumacher said yesterday, fully aware that two more victories would give him a total of 92, exactly the combined score of Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (41). "But we are going to these last three races aiming to win."

Schumacher found an ally in Britain's Jenson Button, despite the German's poor races here in 2004 and 2005. Button said: "There is a very good chance that he can win three in a row. OK, this isn't his favourite circuit, not when you look at the past results, but he's quick in Suzuka [Japan] and Brazil and I think the Ferrari will work well at those two and also here."

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