Losing the championship at the final race in two of the past three seasons may be enough for some drivers to enter a new year still reeling from the result, but Fernando Alonso insists that he is only motivated by his recent title heartache.
“I feel privileged to fight for the world championship two times in three years. Very few people have the opportunity to fight for a world championship.
“We lost two times in the three years in the last race and we want to have the opportunity to fight again for the world championship, hopefully again this year and hopefully to change the result. This is maybe some extra motivation for me and the team.”
Since joining Ferrari in 2010, Alonso has produced some of his best performances in the sport, and he claimed three wins last season on his way to second place in the championship. Having lost out to Sebastian Vettel by just three points, Alonso pointed to the beginning of last season as the stumbling block in his title challenge as he hopes to have a better start in 2013.
“It will be difficult to start any worse. The winter has been much better than last year. We need to start on the right foot and hopefully score some good results for the championship.”
The double world champion also admitted that he did not have a clear idea of the pecking order, but he was hopeful that Ferrari would be in the mix for the win on Sunday.
“No one knows who can win this race at the moment. I expect the five top teams to have a little advantage and not have many surprises in the first races. It’s very close and very difficult to choose one favorite. It’s very difficult and dangerous to make any conclusion.”
Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”
The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.
“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”
Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.