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New rules set up thrilling title chase

The new rules introduced to Formula One at the start of the year have set up the most thrilling title battle for years with the final three races promising to be explosive.

In winning the Hungarian Grand Prix here Sunday, Fernando Alonso not only became the youngest Grand Prix victor and the first Spaniard to stand on the top step of the podium, he also became the eighth different winner this season.

Second place for McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen and Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya's third place allowed the pair to close to two points and one point behind leader Michael Schumacher, who could only finish a disappointing eighth.

Ferrari's Schumacher has not finished on the podium for five races and has scored just three points, while Montoya's charge up the standings has come as a result of seven successive podium finishes.

And the final three races - in Italy, the United States and Japan -promise to feature some of the most intense racing seen for some time as Ferrari's grip on the world championships begins to loosen.

"The drivers title is turning into a true thriller as Michael, Juan and Kimi are so close at the top," said Mario Theissen, motorsport director of Williams' engine suppliers BMW.

But Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn remains as optimistic as ever of turning things around as the world champions prepare for a hectic series of tests at Monza next week.

"I am sure we have what it takes to fight back again. But obviously this was a disappointing race for us," he said.

The battle promises to be equally intense in the constructors' race where Williams now lead by eight points from Ferrari following the Hungaroring race.

Williams lead the way with 129 points from Ferrari, while McLaren are third just 14 points off top spot as all three teams look to take the title.

In the drivers' race Raikkonen and Schumacher will be afforded support from team-mates David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello with both all but mathematically ruled out of contention.

Montoya's team-mate Ralf Schumacher is 14 points behind his brother Michael, but the German believes he still has little chance of winning the title.

"Things are not looking too good for me in the championship and if I want to win the title now I would need a miracle," Ralf said.

Race-winner Alonso took vital points away from his title rivals and he is backing fellow Michelin runners Raikkonen and Montoya to fight it out for the championship.

Alonso believes Schumacher's Bridgestone tyres will hinder his challenge and predicts the most consistent of Raikkonen and Montoya will lift a maiden world crown.

"It depends on the tyres, they will be the key of the championship," Alonso said. "The Michelins have been more competitive in the last three or four races. Probably Kimi and Juan Pablo had a little more options to win the championship. And between the two of them, the more consistent driver (will win). There are three races and if they have one retirement or something then they lose the championship so they have to be very consistent."

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