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Alonso and Raikkonen giving little away over future plans 01 Aug 2008

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren with Steve Cooper (GBR) McLaren Press Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, 31 July 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, 31 July 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari finally arrived in the FIA press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, 31 July 2008

This time of the year is traditionally when the ‘silly season’ really hits top gear, and as Heikki Kovalainen was obliquely confirmed earlier this week as a McLaren driver again in 2009, both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen - each tipped as Ferrari drivers next season - skirted around the issue of their futures in Hungary on Thursday.

“As far as I am concerned I have never been worried about my contractual situation,” Kovalainen said. “Since the beginning of my McLaren career it has been the target to extend this relationship for many, many years. I think it is just to clarify the situation for everybody of where we are at the moment. First of all I can say I am very, very happy with this team. I have had no second thoughts since I joined this team. I think there is a great potential in this team and I want to be part of it. I want to become a successful driver in this team and hopefully we can announce at some point in the future that I can stay here for many, many years. I would be happy to finish my career at this team to be honest.”

The Finn also denied that his role is now to support team mate Lewis Hamilton’s world championship charge over the balance of the season.

“Well, I think first of all I don’t think Lewis needs any help. I think he has shown himself that he can do the job and that he doesn’t need anyone there. The second point is that I am trying to do the maximum for myself and I am not helping any other drivers, that’s for sure. And I have no instructions from the team. In the past it has been very clear that at McLaren they have had the policy of equal drivers and both have the same opportunities.

“I have the same car, the same opportunity and I am just working towards improving the pace and the results. The last few races have been a little bit disappointing but the only way to move on is to keep working hard and eventually the results will come. Interestingly, following this conversation it always arises that I am helping and I am in the support role but I don’t see it like that.”

Alonso, Kovalainen’s predecessor at McLaren, could not resist taking a swipe at his old team when asked why Renault feel hard done to on the engine freeze front.

“When the engine was frozen two or three years ago I think Renault more or less stopped developing and carried on with the new regulations,” the Spaniard said. “At the Viry factory in Paris there are less people working and just the maintenance of the engine. Build the engine and nothing more than that, no research and no developing. I was in another team last year and I know how much they improved the engine during the season and how many steps we introduced and it is the same for all the teams. Every three or four races there is a little step in the engine which gives you some horsepower. For Renault, it has not been like that for the last two years. There has been a lack of power probably in the last three years.”

Hockenheim, however, boosted the former champion team.

“Obviously the target and the goal for the rest of the season is very clear: to try to be fourth in the constructors’ championship,” Alonso continued. “Now we are sixth but only two points from Toyota and one from Red Bull, so the last race with eight points was a big, big step for us in terms of confidence and motivation to keep pushing. It didn’t change too much in the team but now we are closer to our goal.”

He, like Raikkonen, is one of the keys to the driver market for 2009.

“I have a contract with Renault for the long term. But of course at the end of every season you need to look at what the possibilities are. It is not the time now in the middle of August to think but for sure in September and October I will have a think and we will decide.”

Raikkonen arrived late after delays leaving Switzerland, and quickly moved to quell talk of imminent retirement, especially if he wins a second title this year.

“I never said anything like that,” he said. “I only said that I have a contract until the end of next year and then somebody made up that I will stop at the end of this year or the end of next year, but I never said that.”

So is he still enjoying Formula One racing?

“Yeah, but like I said, there are a lot of other things in life but I’m enjoying this. I have a great time, I have a great time with them. Of course it would be better if we could do a little bit better right now but that’s racing and for sure we will get where we want.”

Following Hamilton’s two dominant victories in the last two races, he offered his thoughts on the Englishman’s status as favourite to relieve him of his crown.

“For sure they’ve (Hamilton and McLaren) been very fast in the last races and we haven’t really been exactly doing so well. There are many races to go, but he has a little gap over us, so it’s not easy to catch up, especially if we don’t start winning it will be pretty difficult. Hopefully we can catch up.”

David Tremayne