SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso expects to forge a strong relationship with Kimi Raikkonen when the Finn rejoins Ferrari next season, the Spaniard believing the team have made the right choice as a replacement for Felipe Massa.
Massa has been with Ferrari since 2006 but the Brazilian was unable to secure his spot for next season and while he continues to look for a drive for 2014, his place will be taken by a man who claimed Ferrari’s last world title six years ago.
“When Ferrari told me they were letting Felipe go they asked my opinion of his replacement. I said Kimi was the best out there in the market,” Alonso, a double world champion with Renault, told reporters ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix on Thursday.
“There are many changes coming next year so his many years of experience in Formula One will be vitally important when we develop the car in January and February.”
Raikkonen brings with him a strong pedigree as a world class driver who can get the best out of any car, a reputation that is respected by Alonso but not seen as any extra motivation or one that will destabilize the team.
“The motivation is always to do my best all the time and I don’t think anyone can push me more than I push myself now,” the Spaniard added.
“Yes, we are world champions but I don’t think that makes any difference and people were saying exactly the same thing about my relationship with Felipe when I arrived here (in 2010).
“He had been at Ferrari for many years so it would be a difficult relationship but he is one of the best friends I have here. Next year will be the same.”
For Massa, the final races of his Ferrari career are likely to be bittersweet but the Brazilian still hopes to add one more victory to his tally of 11.
“I will try to do the best I can over the last seven races. I think I have had a fantastic career with Ferrari for a long time,” he said.
“It is part of my story, eight years of my career at the same team and before that as a young driver. I have a lot of friends on the team so I want to finish in the best way possible.
“I will try the best I can and a victory would be a fantastic way to sign off. So I will push hard for that.”
Despite being linked with a straight swap move for Raikkonen at Lotus, Massa did not reveal any details over his future plans other than his ambition to remain competitive.
“About the future, I am talking to a number of teams and I need to work out what is the best for me. I still have a lot to do, I want to find a good car,” he added.
“I do not want to be in Formula One just to be there on the grid, I want to be there fighting for the best results possible. I want to fight victories and for the championship. I hope I can find the right team as I know I have a lot to give.”
Editing by Alison Wildey