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F1's Vettel, Alonso take opposing angles

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel and his chief rival Fernando Alonso head into this weekend's season opener with opposing views about recent history.

One is trying hard to ignore it, while the other is using it as a spur.

Red Bull's Vettel enters this season with three straight world championships under his belt and is aiming for a fourth, while Ferrari's Alonso has gone into the final race with a chance of snatching the drivers' title twice in those three years only to come away empty handed.

Under those circumstances, the German would be expected to be the one reflecting upon the past and the Spaniard eager to forget it, yet the situation is reversed.

Asked Thursday how he is approaching the task of winning a fourth straight title - something only achieved by the sport's greats Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher - Vettel had a simple answer.

``The secret is not to think about what happened the last three years,'' he said

For Vettel, titles No. 2, 3 and potentially 4 were icing on the cake compared to the task of winning his first.

``After that, you don't have that pressure anymore,'' he said. ``You have proved to yourself more than anyone else that you can do so.''

Alonso, a two-time world champion with Renault, has been unable to add to that tally in his three years at Ferrari despite coming tantalizingly close in 2010 and last year. Far from wanting to purge those disappointments, he is evoking them as he enters the season and accentuating the positives.

``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,'' Alonso said. ``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.''

Alonso's title chances appear much stronger this year than last, with Ferrari looking competitive in preseason testing compared to a woeful winter in 2012.

``It will be difficult to start any worse,'' he said. ``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. 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.''

Red Bull's position going into the opening race is worryingly familiar for rival teams; unspectacular times on heavy fuel loads in preseason testing but poised to set some scorching qualifying times once they get onto a lighter load on Saturday.

Still, Vettel said the winter just past was the least conclusive he can remember, mainly because of new high-degradation tires which could well prove decisive around the Albert Park track on Sunday.

``In winter testing, we all suffered the same problems: The tires didn't last,'' Vettel said. ``We hope it gets better here, otherwise it could be quite funny.

``We arrive here not knowing what is going to happen, but it makes things very exciting.''

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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