Montezemolo: team cost Alonso the title
|By Michele Lostia and Matt Beer
||Tuesday, October 23rd 2007, 09:45 GMT
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has praised Fernando Alonso's response to losing the world championship and suggested that Alonso only missed out on the title because McLaren mishandled their drivers.
The inter-team relationship at McLaren was one of the dominant storylines of the 2007 season, with Alonso outspoken in his demands for greater support from the squad.
The McLaren drivers ultimately ended the year tied on 109 points, as Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen snatched the title by a single point with his victory in Brazil.
"Alonso is a real champion, in every sense, an extraordinary driver. I've really appreciated his sportsmanship," di Montezemolo was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport.
"He lost the championship by a point and I don't think it was his fault, rather it was a consequence of his team's bad internal management.
"By congratulating Raikkonen already during the press conference, Alonso demonstrated to be a champion off the track too. It was a gesture we greatly appreciated."
Alonso offered further praise for Raikkonen in an interview with Italian radio station RAI yesterday.
"He is an extraordinary guy - a very, very nice personality even though you don't see it," the Spaniard said.
"The moments I have with him behind the podium and in the press conference, he always laughs and plays pranks, things you don't see when you then watch him on TV.
"So I think he is a really good person, very focused in the races. He loves F1, he is a really great driver. He fought in 2003 and 2005, now he's managed to win the title, I'm very happy."
Di Montezemolo was also critical of Lewis Hamilton's driving in Brazil, although he added that the British rookie's overall achievements in his debut year were praiseworthy.
"Hamilton made an error driven by youth and nervousness. Had he stayed behind Alonso, instead of trying to attack him, he would be champion now. He did something rash," said the Ferrari president.
"But it must be acknowledged that he's had an extraordinary season: so young and in his rookie season in F1 he was in the title fight until the last second. That's why he deserves respect and congratulations.
"But I must also recognise that during the season he did not always hold an exemplary behaviour. I didn't like, for example, the move on Raikkonen in qualifying in Interlagos."
There was a brief controversy at the end of qualifying in Brazil after Raikkonen encountered Hamilton while on his final flying lap. Hamilton, who was on an out-lap, apologised to Raikkonen and no action was taken.