Ferrari principals: Important to start fast for title hopes

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Ferrari has pinned the new regulations for 2014 as a golden opportunity to end its respective Formula One title droughts. And if Ferrari doesn’t start in a relative hole, the team hopes it will have a good chance.

That was one of the key points outlined by team principal Stefano Domenicali as part of Ferrari’s online launch Saturday morning.

“The season will be very long. It will be important to start with a very reliable car at the beginning, and have the dynamic on the other side that was here last year,”  he said in a video released by the team.

“There are lots of things to be tested and checked. The most important thing as we have to avoid is to fall under the big pressure that we have. It has to be very clear. Need to stay very focused on the job.”

Without saying as much, that seems like a directive from Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo that it’s title-or-bust in 2014 for Domenicali, who has failed to achieve the mark since becoming team principal.

Drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen more or less echoed the thoughts.

“I think Kimi and me as a team, we should be quite strong on paper, as we have had some success in the past,” Alonso said in his video. “You need to discover every year where you’re at. It’s up to us to deliver and do a good job.”

Added Raikkonen, in his: “I want to be 100 percent focused as possible for the following season. It was a good time to have this thing done and get enough running of a Formula One car this year.

“If we are the strongest team, and I hope we will be, we both want to win and the time will tell if we can bring the championships back to Ferrari.”

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/