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Alonso takes winning momentum to Hungary

Fernando Alonso has emerged as the favorite to win this year's Formula One world championship after winning his third grand prix of the season last Sunday in Hockenheim, Germany.

Alonso had a superb performance in the German Grand Prix, starting on the pole and relinquishing the lead just briefly when he pitted for the first time in the 67-lap event. The Ferrari driver fought off challenges from Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and McLaren's Jenson Button in the closing laps to claim his 30th career F1 win.

Vettel crossed the finish line in second but was later demoted to fifth place when race stewards penalized him with 20 seconds on his finishing time for illegally passing Button at the exit of the hairpin on the penultimate lap. Button was elevated from third place to second.

With the win, Alonso padded his lead in the championship standings. The Spaniard has now accumulated 154 points for the season, which is 34 more than his closest competitor, Mark Webber from Red Bull. Vettel, the two-time defending F1 titleholder, is 44 points behind.

Alonso won back-to-back championships from 2005-06, driving for Renault at the time.

F1 travels to Budapest this week for the Hungarian Grand Prix before taking a month-long summer break in August. The schedule will resume with the September 2 Belgian Grand Prix.

Alonso is hoping to win his 31st F1 grand prix on Sunday, which ironically is the day he celebrates his 31st birthday.

"In Hungary, we need to make a perfect preparation and qualifying again," Alonso said. "You can be starting in 12th or 13th if you make a little mistake, so we need to approach the race in the same way we did the last couple of races. We'll try to maximize what we have in Hungary and hopefully bring in some new parts that can help us in that circuit."

Alonso won the March 25 Malaysian Grand Prix and the June 24 European Grand Prix before Germany. Prior to the start of the season, it looked as though Alonso would be a long shot for the title since Ferrari endured numerous performance and reliability issues with its cars during pre-season testing. Ferrari has apparently figured out those problems.

"I think at the moment the car seems okay in all areas," Alonso said. "There are not any weak points, as maybe we had at the beginning of the season. We were suffering a little bit on traction and top speed. Now, I think that we are okay on that. In Hungary, I think with these slow speed corners, traction, etc., I don't see any problem with the car, and we should be competitive there."

Alonso's first F1 win came in the 2003 Hungarian GP. He finished third in this event last year.

Button is the defending race winner. His victory there came in his 200th grand prix start.

"Hungary is a very special place for me," Button said. "I won my first grand prix there back in 2006. I celebrated my 200th grand prix there on the Saturday evening (last year) with some of my oldest friends and colleagues in the paddock, and I went on to win the Grand Prix on Sunday. It was the perfect weekend."

Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, July 29. Race: Hungarian Grand Prix. Site: Hungaroring. Track: 2.722-mile (4.381-kilometer), 14-turn road course. Start Time: 8 a.m. (et). Laps: 70. Miles: 190.540 (306.630 km). 2011 Winner: Jenson Button. Television: Speed.