Alonso backs struggling Ferrari partner Massa
Fri, 22 Jun 2012 1:23p.m.
Fernando Alonso is hopeful that Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa has turned the corner on a poor start to the Formula One season.
However, Alonso said he'd welcome a new driving partner in the future, including two-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel - the subject of the latest round of rumours in the paddock surrounding Ferrari's future.
"Felipe is getting some confidence with some tweaks to the car. Now we can both be competitive, and that is the best news for the team," Alonso said at the European Grand Prix on Thursday.
"I have a lot of respect for Felipe. From the outside it is difficult to appreciate what a challenging time he has given me for the past three years."
When pressed, Alonso reiterated that Massa, who has yet to finished better than sixth place this season, had the potential to stay on with the Scuderia.
"He is having the full support from Ferrari," the two-time champion said. "We are convinced that now both of us will be up at the front."
The Ferrari drivers have benefited from an overhaul to their cars after they showed a worrying lack of pace at the beginning of the series.
While Alonso trails leader Lewis Hamilton by just two points heading into Sunday's race in Valencia, Massa has also shown modest improvement in recent outings. But pressure is still mounting on the 31-year-old Brazilian to rediscover his peak form of 2008 when he came within one point of winning the title.
Massa said having a car tuned to his liking has helped him settle down mentally.
"We changed many things in the car. The development has made the car better and another reason is better driving from me as well," he said. "We changed things in the setup and it worked, and the car is more comfortable to drive and I think it was definitely positive for me. When you have a much more comfortable drive it helps everything, even on the psychological side."
Massa was also grateful for Alonso's much needed support.
"It's always better to receive positive things from people who understand more about driving, from people who know what I am capable of," he said.
Ferrari has been buzzing with talk of a possible replacement for Massa, including Sauber's young driver Sergio Perez and, more recently, Vettel, after Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali told German media that the Red Bull star could fit with Alonso despite their shared desire to be a No. 1 driver.
"When I won the 2005 championship with Renault, I was linked to Ferrari immediately, and I arrived in 2010. So, if Sebastian is linked now, maybe he'll arrive in five years' time," Alonso said. "I'm extremely happy with Felipe, but whatever teammate comes in the future will be welcome. If he comes, it will be no problem and we'll try to work as we are doing with Felipe."
Vettel, who sits just three points off Hamilton's lead, brushed aside suggestions of an early exit from Red Bull to avoid any distractions. The championship was wide open after seven winners in as many races.
"I'm flattered, obviously. I have always said (Ferrari) is a great team with a great tradition, but I'm happy where I am," said Vettel. "It is a compliment and I will take it into account, but for now the focus is entirely on this season. If you want to have a word in this year's championship, you'd better have your focus on this year seeing that it is extremely tight."
Practice is on Friday before Saturday's qualifying session on the 5.4-kilometer (3.4-mile) Valencia street course through the America's Cup harbor.
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