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Fernando Alonso: "Vettel? The strongest driver is Hamilton"

"My main rival will be whoever has the strongest team and car. If you ask me who the strongest driver is, it's Hamilton" adds the man from Asturias.

Fernando Alonso: "Vettel? The strongest driver is Hamilton"

As you'd expect, there was a lot of expectation surrounding Fernando Alonso's first press conference of the year. The Spanish champion answered questions from the world's media, and although he kept some opinions to himself, was truthful. Also as you'd expect. This was what Alonso said, in the year that could see his first title with Ferrari.

The season ended not so long ago. Have you had time to rest?

I haven't rested as much as I would have liked because we had a really long season and engagements up to almost the 20th December. I had Christmas holidays and little more, so I hope to have some days before Australia to recharge the batteries again.

You've been very active on Twitter talking about what you've been up to. Why do you like it so much?

I like to tell my fans how I prepare, and the feelings you have; it's F1 from the inside. Of course you can't show them everything. I could show them more but there are things that are secret in this world of F1. What I like is that now nothing is written about me, about my private life. Last year I was on holiday at home, at the end of the year I was in Italy and then in Russia and afterwards in Brazil and I talked about that without any problems. In previous years, without Twitter they might have said I was on the moon with an elephant or in Kenya with Obama, they used to say all kinds of things. That was worse. Now there are no more inventions or fantasies.

Let's talk about the sporting stuff. Last year, despite the fact you didn't win the title almost everybody said you were the best driver. Do you feel the obligation to win this season?

You're not obliged to win; this is a sport and that means sacrifice, determination, feeling the pleasure of doing what you do and the big fortune of fighting for something you love. There's a lot of drivers and we're not all lucky enough to be fighting for the title. We were really close to winning and it's logical because we're Ferrari; on a personal level I also have to be there, but in sport obligations are superficial.

Is there anything that makes you think this could be the year of your first title with Ferrari?

Nothing makes me think that. We've been working for many years but at the end of the year we don't have more points than the winner, despite the votes and surveys etc. They name you as the best driver, and that makes you feel better about the sacrifices you've made, and the difficult years of complete dedication to this sport, but the objective is to win. We're a very competitive team, the best in the history of F1. We've been fighting for the title and I hope that this year we'll do it again. But there's no special feeling that this year we can win.

Nevertheless you seem more confident, at least about not repeating last year's start...

I do have more confidence. There's no doubt we've improved in certain things, bearing in mind the rules are similar to last year. In 2012 there was a question mark over the car. This year I don't think we'll be a second and a half or two seconds slower than the others. We can't go worse than last year.

What was missing last year to make off with the title in the end?

We lacked the minimum level to battle in the first four or six races; maybe the key was there.

They've stopped using the wind tunnel and they've gone with Toyota's one instead. Can that take the blame for the car's performance in the last few years?

I don't think it's only one factor. F1 is very complex. But aerodynamics is really important now and the wind tunnel plays a crucial role. In 2012 we added a forward aileron which was giving us time in the wind tunnel but on the track made us go a tenth slower. That's something that happened last year. But if we weren't at Red Bull's level it's down to a variety of circumstances. There have been a lot of innovations we've trailed behind in; the double diffuser, escapes etc etc... I hope this year it'll be us that innovates and the wind tunnel works well.

Did Vettel win fairly? There has been talk of yellow flags, engine mapping, going at the limit of the regulations...

Winners are always deserving. There are races when certain decision are taken, above all when the championship is ending with a gap of only three points from one to the other, or six or ten. There are decisions which could have changed the championship, but it's been like that throughout the history of F1. Winners have always had races when they didn't deserve all the points; it happened with Vettel, also when I won... but sport's like that. It happens in football too - there are offsides, fouls, things that happen...

In this fight against Red Bull, you were accused of being overly political. Are you involved in a psychological war?

No, I don't think I am in any kind of psychological war, as a driver. These words surprised me a lot, they don't make much sense. They don't listen, don't read, don't talk... In the end we had to tell them to cool off. I don't know if they were waking up in the middle of the night or anything. We had to tell them to calm down because a lot of things weren't true.

o finish with Red Bull, you said you were competing against Adrian Newey and not against Vettel. Do you think that, had Newey been at Ferrari you would have won a title with them?

I don't know. He definitely managed to get the right team together, that's the difference. In reality it was more even last year but in 2011 that car had some incredible numbers and entered into history. We don't know what he would have done at our team, we'll always be left wondering.

Let's turn our attention to this year and the supposed controversy with Massa. Many reckon that if the championship doesn't go according to plan and Felipe is in your position, you will help the Brazilian.

Of course. I wouldn't be the first time that I've helped him, or the last. We help each other for the good of Ferrari. Felipe is one of the best drivers in the world; that's something I was saying for three years to surprised faces in press conferences. At the end of 2012 many realized, but I was saying it for three years. Seasons like the last one with this difference of points are definitely strange, it's normal for teammates to be closer and I hope that's how it'll be this year. I hope to go well myself, of course.

Staying with teammates, this year sees the arrival of Pedro de la Rosa. What do you think?

I see Pedro's inclusion as something really positive. With his years at McLaren he can help us. He's coming more specifically to work in the simulator which is an area we need a lot of help with. We thought that if Pedro was free at the last moment he could help us out. In any case, I don't think that the team's problem has been the drivers or the simulator in the last few years. I think there will be bigger signings maybe for the servicing of the car, more than a job in the simulator which will help us more in the long term.

In other years you said that Hamilton, or even Schumacher was your main rival. After Vettel's three titles, do you still think that Lewis is the best of your adversaries?

I don't know who my main rival is. It'll be whoever has the strongest team and car, the most luck and all those factors that make one opponent stronger than another. If you ask me who the strongest driver is it's Hamilton; he was last year and he is this year. It's a personal choice - it has nothing to do with politics or with psychological wars. We'll find out who the strongest adversary is in Australia, but the strongest driver at the moment is Hamilton for me.

But Vettel is the champion, and he's won the last three years. Why isn't Vettel the strongest for you?

I'm not saying he won't be the strongest. In 2011 his performances were fantastic, although it's true that the car was much quicker. But when your car is going well many relax and he didn't. In 2012 there were all kinds of conditions, wet, dry, etc. ... and he didn't slip up. He deserved the three championships, that's the truth.

Going back to Hamilton, do you think he'll be able to win with Mercedes?

I'm certain he'll be able to win. He's a super driver, he's won with different cars over the years and he's won a lot of races. I'm sure that with Hamilton Mercedes will be stronger and will win races this year. Mercedes won last year and they'll win again this year.

You said that Massa is a great driver, and you have respect for Hamilton. But could you have Vettel as a teammate in the future?

We do what the team says. For me it wouldn't ever be a problem. It's been a pleasure working with all the drivers I've shared a team with and I've competed with them. We'll see what happens in the future.

Will the other big rival, McLaren, be weaker after Hamilton's departure?

We'll see... I remember that they had a tyre problem and we'll see how they adapt to the new tyres. There are many things that make us think that McLaren could be strong opponents. Last year's car was good and this year it'll be similar; in Brazil they were very strong.

I'm sure you dream about a title with Ferrari, something more special than any other...

A title with Ferrari would be the best, something special; winning with the best team in the history of F1. Dressed in red, lifting the world championship trophy has to be a unique experience and we're going to fight for it.

Let's see if you can do it this time...

Important reinforcements have come in, we have total confidence in the engineers and the new people that have arrived. Felipe and I are certain, more than in other years, that this year can be better; as much because of the wind tunnel as the innovation. But there's a way to go until Australia and we want to see the results and not talk a lot.

Schumacher took five seasons to win his first title with Ferrari, and then he won five in a row. Do you think you could achieve something similar?

Well, I've got two years then. I can skip this one to try to do what he did.

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