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Saturday September 21, 2013 MYT 12:52:01 AM
Saturday September 21, 2013 MYT 12:52:18 AM
Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso of Spain attends the first practice session of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circuit in Singapore September 20, 2013. REUTERS/Pablo Sanchez
(Reuters) - Fernando Alonso reiterated his long-term love and loyalty to Ferrari on Friday after McLaren, the Formula One team he left in acrimonious circumstances in 2007, said they would be keen to sign him.
"I repeat more or less every weekend, but I keep repeating, that I love Ferrari and I will stay in Ferrari until the end," the Spaniard, whose contract runs to the end of 2016, told reporters at the Singapore Grand Prix.
"I have three more years with Ferrari and I hope many more to come if we can extend the contract."
McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh had told reporters earlier that his team would be in the market for the double world champion should he want to leave their Italian rivals.
"Yes, if I could," he said when asked if he wanted to sign him. "I think most teams up and down this pitlane would happily sign Fernando Alonso. He's a very talented driver.
"I expect next year our driver line-up to stay the same but we are open to anything," he added. "And in the longer term then he'd be a great asset. I think Fernando's in control of his own destiny, but we'll see."
FROTH AND EXCITEMENT
McLaren have yet to confirm their 2014 line-up, although Whitmarsh said 2009 world champion Jenson Button's deal was done, and there are lingering doubts about Mexican Sergio Perez's future with them.
"There's a lot of froth and excitement around these issues but being realistic, that's what I think will happen," Whitmarsh said when asked whether ultimately McLaren would continue with the same drivers. "But we'll see."
Whitmarsh's comments about Alonso set the media abuzz with speculation that the driver could, despite his own assurances to the contrary, leave Maranello as early as the end of the season in what would be the shock of the formula one season.
Ferrari announced last week that their 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen was returning next year to partner Alonso in what will be a lineup of champions.
Alonso is used to having a clear number one role, and his pairing with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2007 and that team's insistence on giving equal terms to both despite the Briton's rookie status, led to a breakdown in relations with then-principal Ron Dennis and the Spaniard's departure.
Alonso said on Friday that the problems at McLaren had been exaggerated.
"There were so many rumours that we had a lot of problems that year but I always say that I had no problems with anyone, it was just the philosophy of the team and especially one man in the team that is not there (now)," he said.
At Ferrari, Alonso has been partnered by Brazilian Felipe Massa - who has not won a race since 2008 and has acted as a supportive number two.
Asked whether he sensed Alonso was now 'more gettable' because of Raikkonen's arrival, Whitmarsh said it would be wrong for him to comment on what was going on at Ferrari but cast doubt on the viability of the new pairing.
"I think 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 line-up I don't know.
"Let's be frank. People want to sign Fernando Alonso because he is one of the best racing drivers in the world at the moment," said Whitmarsh. "He's an asset to any team."
Alonso said that, far from being unhappy with Raikkonen's arrival, he had pushed for it.
"Kimi in my opinion, and the team's opinion, was the best option," he said.
McLaren have had a woeful season so far without a single podium finish but they have Honda arriving as engine provider in 2015 in a renewal of what was once the dominant partnership in the sport.
Much of the speculation about Alonso has focused on 2015, and potential escape clauses that would allow the Spaniard to leave Ferrari should next year's car and engine prove to be uncompetitive.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Alison Wildey)
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