Fernando Alonso has ruled out leaving Ferrari despite another year of frustration with the Scuderia and the flattery of McLaren making their interest in re-signing him public.
The Spaniard, a two-time title winner with Renault prior to a tumultuous single year at McLaren alongside Lewis Hamilton, is still widely regarded as the best driver in F1 but has cut an increasingly frustrated figure this year with Ferrari unable to keep pace with runaway championship leaders Mercedes after four successive seasons of playing second fiddle to Red Bull.
"Our season has been frustrating because we had high hopes with this year’s new regulations and starting from zero with all the other teams we thought we could have an advantage with all our facilities and input from everybody. But we have found ourselves not in the right position and not competitive," Alonso told Sky Sports News HQ’s Rachel Brookes in an exclusive interview ahead of this weekend’s Italian GP. "We are further away from the leaders than during any other season this year, we are sometimes one-and-a-half seconds away from Mercedes."
But after committing the second-half of his F1 career to Ferrari, the 33-year-old Alonso is not for turning.
"It's not my intention at the moment to move, I want to win here and finish the job that we started some years ago and we will see what the future comes," he declared.
“There has been a lot of talk since last summer but from my mouth there never came any interest to leave Ferrari or any words saying l would join another team. There was a lot of speculation, which is not disturbing but it created a little bit of tension and stress. Yet you also feel happy and proud that the best teams have an interest in you and say so in public."
Marco Mattiacci, who replaced the ousted Stefano Domenicali as Ferrari Team Principal in April following their dismal start to F1’s new turbo era, announced last week that both Kimi Raikkonen, who has endured a torrid season in the ill-handling F14 T, and Alonso would be retained for 2015. Mattiacci's appointment caught many in the paddock by surprise given his lack of experience in F1 and Alonso says his new boss' unfamiliarity with the sport has already proved challenging.
"He is trying to change many things and it is good and a bad thing that he doesn't know much about Formula 1. It is a negative when you need to change very precise things on the car where we are weak compared to our competitors. But it is a good thing because he has very fresh ideas."
According to Ferrari, Alonso is under contract until 2016, although paddock gossipers have speculated that his deal contains a release clause directly related to the team’s position in the Constructors’ Championship – third at present, but just ten points ahead of Williams.
Alonso’s renewal of vows with Ferrari is likely to be good news for Jenson Button, with the Englishman kept in limbo while McLaren pursued the possibility of luring Alonso back to Woking. The Spaniard's solitary year at McLaren descended into one of the most acrimonious and controversial in F1's history when his ferocious rivalry with then rookie Hamilton split the team into two, enabling Raikkonen to snatch the 2007 championship out of the grasp of the warring team-mates. The parallel with this year's battle between friends-turned-foes Hamilton and Rosberg at Mercedes is obvious.
"When, in the same team, there are two possibilities of winning, it is not easy,” Alonso mused. “Definitely [the Mercedes garage will be divided] because it is not only the drivers, it is the mechanics and engineers, and the driver’s mind will change when you are against your team-mate because, even if you don’t want to, your mind will always be looking for something weird which is going in favour of the other driver.”
Button was scathing in his assessment of Rosberg's manoeuvre at Spa two weeks ago when he punctured Hamilton's race-leading Mercedes, describing the German's botched attempt at an overtake as "unbelievable". But Alonso's view of the incident is altogether more sanguine.
"It was a racing incident," he declared. "It's impossible that Nico from the cockpit could have been so precise with his front-wing to have cut a tyre off another car, you need to be in surgery at the hospital with that sort of precision. Definitely, we are not so precise.
"They touched, and the bad part of the incident was for Hamilton, but it could have been the other way around - maybe Hamilton's tyre resisted and Nico had to change the front-wing and his race was over."
Note Fernando's reluctance to refer to his former team-mate as 'Lewis'. Some rivalries, it seems, never entirely fade away.
"It's not my intention at the moment to move, I want to win here and finish the job that we started some years ago and we will see what the future comes."
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