Due to Renault's double-DNF in Canada, Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella will be forced to fight a rear-guard battle at Indianapolis on Sunday, but McLaren-Mercedes ace Kimi Raikkonen is perfectly poised to start a winning streak at the US Grand Prix.

Due to Renault's double-DNF in Canada, Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella will be forced to fight a rear-guard battle at Indianapolis on Sunday, but McLaren-Mercedes ace Kimi Raikkonen is perfectly poised to start a winning streak at the US Grand Prix.


"I am looking forward to continuing the championship battle this weekend in Indianapolis," said Raikkonen, who chalked up his third grand prix win of the season last weekend. "The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is legendary, and it is one of the places that every driver would like to win at, like Monaco and Spa."


Although Raikkonen will be the favourite to win on Sunday, the crowd's darling will definitely be the Finn's team-mate, Juan-Pablo Montoya. The fiery Colombian, a former CART star who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000, dearly wants to win at the Brickyard, particularly so given his controversial disqualification in Montreal.


"After the end to my race in Canada, all you can do is move on to the next event, and where better to go than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," he said. "It is one of those venues that has something a bit special about it and has some great memories for me, from the Indy 500, which I won in 2000, and the crowds are always so supportive and enthusiastic.


"It is like a home race for me, with all the Colombian flags in the grandstands. I enjoy competing at the track and hopefully will achieve a podium finish this time. The car should be really quick around here, so I'm looking forward to that."


Like all drivers and teams, McLaren-Mercedes will have to find the perfect compromise to set up the car for the 13-turn Indianapolis circuit, which incorporates part of the famous oval.


"The two contrasting elements of the Speedway, the tight, twisting infield and fast, banked section of the oval, means we have a unique challenge for the whole package," Montoya said. "There is very high loading on our Michelins through the banked section, for example, and we need to find a compromise to have the durability to take these loadings while also providing the low-speed grip that is required to be quick in the infield section."


Meanwhile, Alonso may have four wins to his credit this year in his Renault, but he has never been able to make it to the finish line in his four previous F1 races at Indianapolis.


"I hope this year to break this thing," he said of his run of bad luck. "We have a fantastic car in this season, and we were able to fight for the podium in all the races. And to finish here in the podium or to finish the race for me will be a big, big pleasure."


Ferrari's Michael Schumacher is a three-time winner of the United States Grand Prix, but he is in the middle of his longest winless streak since 1993. Schumacher and team-mate Rubens Barrichello, finished second and third in Canada, but the German remains realistic about his chances at Indianapolis. His second place in Canada was aided by retirements from other top cars.


"You have to be pretty honest about what happened last week," he said. "I would have been fifth in normal circumstance and not second as I finished. But we have had some very good performances through the year like in Monte Carlo in the race."


"We have the speed, but we just don't get it there all the time, particularly in qualifying," he added.


Following a wretched start to the season, BAR-Honda drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato will hope that the Brackley-based team will re-find the form it showed at last year's US Grand Prix.


"I have great memories from Indianapolis in 2004 as I got my first podium at the race last year," Sato said. "I am very much looking forward to getting back to Indy and I think we will be competitive. The new aero package looked promising in Canada this weekend, so I hope the car will again show a step forward in performance and it should suit the Indy circuit quite well."


Button added: "We were very competitive in Indianapolis last year, and I think we will be again this year, so I'm looking forward to the weekend. We don't have the best qualifying slot, but it's reasonable, and I think that we can do great things from there. Montreal was a good race for us even though we didn't score any points, as we showed that the car is back on form.


"It's always a great atmosphere at Indianapolis. The circuit has a lot of history, and the crowd is always very supportive. It should be a good race for us."


Williams-BMW's Nick Heidfeld has finished second twice this year and is aiming for another podium finish at Indy: "I have always liked Indianapolis," Heidfeld said. "I've always had good results there in the past, so I'm looking forward to going back there again and hopefully getting another good result for the team.


"The place itself is outstanding, particularly because of the grandstand in front of the pits. I hope there's another good crowd to give us a great atmosphere. The banking looks spectacular, but for a driver it is actually quite easy to go flat out there as long as you don't have any problems with the car. We should be a bit stronger in the US than we were in Montreal."


Jarno Trulli, who has collected three podium finishes for Toyota this season, this week said: "I always enjoy the atmosphere in North America, and this double-header provides a welcome contrast to Europe. Indianapolis is a special venue which plays host to one of the most important races in the world, and I also enjoy the atmosphere in the evenings because the people are so friendly."