McLaren open door for Alonso return,driver slams it

Fernando Alonso is flattered that McLaren have expressed interest in signing him but said on Friday he remains committed to Ferrari

Written by Associated Press | Published: September 21, 2013 3:32 am

Chris Lines

Fernando Alonso is flattered that McLaren have expressed interest in signing him but said on Friday he remains committed to Ferrari and intends to finish his Formula One career with the Italian team. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh raised eyebrows ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix when he publicly flagged his interest in luring the Spaniard back to McLaren,where he spent one unhappy year in 2007.

“Most teams up and down this pit lane would happily sign Fernando Alonso,’’ Whitmarsh said Friday in an interview with Sky Sports. “He’s a very talented driver. We are open to anything and in the longer term then he’d be a great asset. Fernando’s in control of his own destiny,but we’ll see.”

However,Alonso quickly ended the speculation when asked after Friday’s practice sessions at the Marina Bay circuit. “It is good to have these comments,but I have no intention (of leaving),” Alonso said. “I have three more years with Ferrari and I hope many more to come if we can extend the contract and that will be my hope. I keep repeating every weekend – and I don’t know why I have to keep repeating – I love Ferrari and I will stay in Ferrari until the end.”

The one thing that Whitmarsh’s comments showed was that there was no lingering animosity between McLaren and Alonso after the tumultuous infighting of 2007 between the Spaniard and then McLaren team principal Ron Dennis,with rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton stuck in the middle.

“There were so many rumors that we had a lot of problems that year,but I always say that I had no problems with anyone,” Alonso said. “It was just the philosophy of the team or rather one man in the team that is no longer there.”

The renewed speculation about Alonso being unsettled at Maranello was sparked by Ferrari’s signing of Kimi Raikkonen as his teammate for 2014.

Many rival teams and drivers had expressed doubts about whether the pairing of two top-line drivers could work,but Alonso has insisted he advocated the signing of Raikkonen and was comfortable with the decision.

Whitmarsh was among the many doubters. “People were surprised with the recruitment of Kimi,not because Kimi’s not massively talented or that he would want to go to Ferrari,but … whether it’s a sustainable driver lineup I don’t know,’’ Whitmarsh said. While neither Jenson Button nor Sergio Perez had finalized a contract with McLaren for next season,both were expected to stay and Whitmarsh said “being realistic,that’s what I think will happen.’’

Vettel tops practice

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel again stamped himself the man to beat by setting the fastest time in Friday’s practice for the Singapore Grand Prix. Chasing his third straight win in Formula One’s annual night race and seemingly headed for a fourth successive drivers’ championship,Vettel set a time of 1 minute,44.249 seconds on the Marina Bay circuit; six tenths of a second clear of teammate Mark Webber.

Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were the nearest rivals,but third-placed Rosberg was more than a second slower than Vettel.

“The time we set was a surprise today,I got a good lap in,but I don’t think it’s completely representative,’’ Vettel said.

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