Renault will have edge, says Alonso

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Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher continued their psychological games here yesterday, ahead of Sunday's French Grand Prix.

Following Schumacher's Ferrari/Bridgestone rout in America, Alonso is confident that Renault and Michelin will resume normal business.

"The aim is to keep on winning and increase our lead," the Spaniard said. "There are a few high-speed corners, and you need good traction. Both of those things are characteristics of our Renault R26, so it will be a good circuit for us and for Michelin, too, I think. I won four races in a row before Indy, but I always said that the championship was not over, and it sounded really pessimistic. But a gap of 25 points didn't mean we would be champions automatically, and now that the gap is 19, we cannot be pessimistic and think the advantage will disappear quickly. I was first or second in nine of the 10 races - and in the next eight races I think we will be able to keep on winning and increase the lead even more."

Schumacher, meanwhile, played down his Indianapolis success. "It was an extremely exciting race but the result should not be overplayed. I think that this race could be another classic. From now on, we will fight in the real sense of the word and each race will be an opportunity for us to come back. "

They will see one another on track for five minutes less this weekend, however, after the FIA, the governing body of world motor sport, ratified changes to cut that amount of time off the third qualifying session on Saturday. Previously there had been criticism that most of the session was a frivolous waste of fuel prior to the final shoot-out for grid positions which only came at the very end of it.

Meanwhile, the Formula One refugee Juan Pablo Montoya could make his Nascar debut as early as next month. It is thought that making public his switch to Nascar, and recent criticism of Silverstone's run-off areas which played into the hands of the FIA president, Max Mosley, in his campaign to cap engine development, infuriated the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz managements and led to his premature departure. The Colombian is expected to take part in Nascar's second-division Busch Series before stepping up to the Nextel Cup, and could make his debut in just a few weeks.

His new team owner, Chip Ganassi, said: "We're hoping we can get something going on by the middle of August. We certainly want to get him into every type of track we can."