SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso set the record straight on Thursday about a rare public rebuke from Ferrari for unflattering comments he made about his car last month.
“I think it was wrong information coming to the president,” he said of comments made by Ferrari’s Luca Di Montezemolo and published on the team website on the driver’s 32nd birthday and the day after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Ferrari said at the time that Montezemolo had “tweaked” Alonso’s ear after the Spaniard, asked by Italian reporters what kind of a car he wanted as a present, had replied: “The one the others have”.
Speaking to reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix, Alonso said Ferrari had gone back through recordings of his news conferences and found “nothing different to any other grand prix, nothing different in the team.
“I tried to push for the best for the team and for our performance,” he added.
The double world champion also shrugged off speculation surrounding his future, with rumors running wild after his manager Luis Garcia Abad was seen entering the Red Bull motorhome in Hungary for discussions with team principal Christian Horner.
Abad said he had been discussing rising Spanish prospect Carlos Sainz junior, a Red Bull young driver and son of the former world rally champion.
“I think the president is a very intelligent man to separate what is rumors and what can be true. He never asked me anything,” said Alonso, when asked whether he would be at Ferrari next year.
“We have both been in F1 for many years now and we know what the Summer break means in terms of rumors so there were never questions. He is the man that helps all of us to keep our heads down, our feet in the ground and committed to the team.”
Alonso, who is third overall and 39 points behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel after 10 of 19 races, said the feverish speculation and intense attention went with the territory of being a Ferrari driver.
“The lesson is that anything we do, the repercussion of being in Ferrari or the repercussion of what Ferrari does is bigger than any other. This is the best team in the world,” he declared.
The Spaniard pointed out that he gave news conferences in three different languages, two of them foreign. “And I am from the north, so don’t speak perfect Spanish,” he added.
He said he had remained in close contact with the team throughout the August break and had talked to Montezemolo daily.
“In the first days (it was) because of this press release (the rebuke) etc and now for different things, not only F1 but also holidays, Real Madrid’s start, Juventus that won the Italian Cup,” he explained.
“It was a very good summer and now we have the batteries full for this championship.”
Vettel has won four races this season while Alonso, who led the German at the same point last year, has just two to his credit.
The Spaniard, who was pitched out of last year’s race at Spa by Lotus’s Romain Grosjean in a first lap collision that earned the Frenchman a one race ban, said Ferrari needed to keep believing they could turn the situation around.
“The last two or three seasons we have some good examples of what we can do, what we can hope for if we do things right. For this, we need to improve the car, we need to make some parts work,” he said.
“The first step in that program is here in Spa, to try to see some performance gain and try to deliver what people expect from us.”
Editing by Ed Osmond