London: Fernando Alonso has given his Ferrari team a perfect - and totally-insured - thumbs-up sign, predicting that next weekend they will launch a ferocious bid to win the Formula One world title this year.
The 28-year-old Spaniard, who left Renault for Ferrari this season, has revelled in his new surroundings with the scarlet scuderia and said that he is convinced he can challenge for his third title.
And, be believes, he can launch that championship bid on home soil when he leads Ferrari into the first European event of the year, the Spanish Grand Prix, at Barcelona.
He said: "I think that with all the potential that we have, with the super team that I have, this is just the beginning -- and I have a real chance to fight for the world championship.
"That is something I couldn`t even think about last year, after four races, but this time it is so different for me. I am enjoying it all again. I have felt that special bug from winning a race, or winning a title, and that for me is the most positive thing about the start this year."
Alonso won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on his Ferrari debut and has been competitive, if less impressive, in the three following races in Australia, Malaysia and China. But, he said, he has enjoyed every moment in his new surroundings after two difficult seasons with Renault.
He said: "It is obvious that the championship always starts with the first race, but it is also true that the opening Grand Prix is just a contest that confirms the good sensations, or otherwise, that you have experienced during the pre-season testing.
"When that part of the season is over and we start the European season, it is the real time to show who can fight for the title - and who can`t. The opening races are really atypical. There is changing weather, different conditions and not much stability.
"So, now, back in Europe, back in Spain, we arrive at the moment of truth - now is the time to show who is ready for the title battle and which teams can develop their cars and performances faster than their rivals. It is the start of a nice fight, for sure!"
As if to symbolise his readiness for the fray and his confidence in emerging triumphant, Alonso has insured his thumbs - thanks to a special 10 million Euros deal with his personal sponsor Spanish banking giant Santander.
The Spanish bank said in a statement: "Alonso`s thumbs are a big symbol as, apart from being essential when driving a Formula One car, they represent a sign of victory -- and that everything is under control and well protected."
Alonso is delighted not only with the deal, but the confident and positive signal that it has sent to his and Ferrari`s fans. And he has eased worries about the team`s engines after suffering early-season problems in China.
He said: "The car is fine. For one reason or another we haven`t managed to score as many points as we wanted, but I think we are going to have a good car again in Barcelona. I`m not worried.
"As for the engines, we have found the problems that we had. I know there have been things written, about the valves and the air-consumption system of the engine, but as usual they were not accurate, or true.
"We have been quiet about it, because we have found the problems and we`ll try to do the rest of the season with an engine that`s 100 per cent reliable. Then we will see if we can win the races and the championship, too."