Ferrari in firefighting mode over Alonso after Mercedes pep talk

Team principal assures his driver that he is cherished very much after the Spaniard comes in for praise from the outside.

Fernando Alonso managed the fastest lap yesterday. Max Rossi / Reuters
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Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo has put a consoling arm around the shoulder of Fernando Alonso in a bid to reassure the Spaniard he remains loved within the team.

Alonso has recently courted praise from Mercedes-GP chairman Dieter Zetsche and motorsport in-charge Toto Wolff, the latter describing him as “a monster” of the track.

Zetsche, meanwhile, claimed Alonso was “probably the best driver on the Formula One grid. He has always proven it, and in uncompetitive cars”.

Ahead of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix such comments have prompted Alonso to question why he has not received similar support from those around him.

“It’s always welcome when people see your job in a good way and respect what you try to achieve,” said Alonso.

“But it’s sometimes strange to see good comments and compliments from people from the outside, and the opposite from people who are supposed to be close to you.”

In an effort to appease him, Di Montezemolo has hailed Alonso, 32, who won the world title in 2005 and 2006, as “the best driver in the world, who always gives 200 per cent in the races”.

Di Montezemolo said: “He knows how much I count on him, even away from the racetrack, in terms of his contribution and the impetus he gives to the team.

“I think it’s incredible there are still some so-called experts who don’t understand that and are always looking for a polemical situation that simply doesn’t exist.

“The truth is he and (teammate) Kimi (Raikkonen), another incredible driver, need a competitive Ferrari and giving them that is our sole objective.”

Alonso and Ferrari have had a tough start to the season, with the Spaniard only having one podium to his credit this season as he, like the rest of the grid, has struggled against the domination of the Mercedes-GP team.

But he gave himself and Ferrari some cheer yesterday as he topped the times in second practice in Monte Carlo, with a time of one minute, 18.482 seconds to outpace championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton had been fastest in first practice, but the second session started in wet conditions, before drying out in the final stages, with Alonso setting his lap in the final seconds.

World champion Sebastian Vettel was third quickest in his Red Bull Racing car, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who was ninth, encouraged by the Austrian team’s speed.

Of challenging Mercedes, the Australian said: “I think if it is going to be anywhere, this is the place for it.”

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