MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy: Fernando Alonso is already in love with Ferrari and says the working environment is much better than at previous teams — especially McLaren.The Spaniard, world champion with Renault in 2005 and 2006 before an ill-fated 2007 at McLaren led to him returning to the French team, made a series of digs towards the British outfit in his first official news conference as a Ferrari driver yesterday.
“I’ve felt comfortable from my first day. The team has welcomed me like a family. Ferrari, I think, is something unique in Formula One,” the 28-year-old told a room packed with reporters from around the world at a pre-season ski retreat.
“All of you have dreamed of driving Ferrari street cars, I’m the same. This will 100 per cent be my last team. I want to finish my career with a good taste in the mouth.”
Alonso’s season at McLaren was characterised by spats in the team and his relationship with Lewis Hamilton was uneasy at best.
“I lose too much time talking about it,” he said. “I never asked to be a number one driver but what I don’t want is to be a number two … it happened sometimes in 2007.”
Alonso, who replaces World Rally-bound Kimi Raikkonen at the Italian team this season, has already spent time at Ferrari’s Maranello base where staff love to talk.
“It’s a family environment and there’s a passion for racing in the factory. The way of working really hit me. I was used to people sending an e-mail to someone 10 metres away,” he beamed with clear delight at his arrival at F1’s most famous team.
“What I do is work 110 per cent with the team so if the team is not working 110 per cent, it’s not right.”
Ferrari limped in fourth last year and have had to deal with the shock of consultant and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher leaving to come out of retirement with Mercedes.
Alonso, the only man still racing who has beaten the German to world titles, is excited by the challenge.
“His return is good for the sport. For the fans, 2010 at the start will be very interesting. It’s a motivation for me of course. When he wasn’t here, of course there was that lack of motivation.”
A limit on pre-season testing means Alonso has a tough task to be perfectly comfortable in the new car for the season opener in Bahrain on March 14.
“Seven or eight days (of testing) before a championship is not enough for any driver, it doesn’t matter if he has arrived at a new team. I don’t think there is any other sport in the world like this,” he said, looking relaxed in his new, red uniform.
Alonso was confident that Jean Todt would be a success as the new International Automobile Federation (FIA) president and said he was happy for his friend Flavio Briatore after his life ban from F1 was overturned in a French court.
However, the driver refused to discuss whether the Italian was still acting as his manager.
Briatore had been banned for fixing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix by making Nelson Piquet crash so that unwitting fellow Renault driver Alonso won the race, a result which ultimately cost new Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa the world title.
Alonso famously clashed with Massa in 2007 in Germany but he denied that there was any problem with the Brazilian, saying their relationship was “very good”. — Reuters