Fernando Alonso has claimed that his Formula 1 World Championship chances in 2008 are no worse at Renault than they would have been had he remained at McLaren-Mercedes for a second season – suggesting that the Woking-based outfit is entirely Lewis Hamilton-centric.
Though Heikki Kovalainen – who has admitted that he would happily see out his grand prix career at McLaren – has fervently stressed it is not the case [see separate story – click here
], Alonso insists his successor is merely playing a subservient support role to the title-chasing Hamilton this year, in so doing dashing his own hopes of fighting for the crown.
Kovalainen – who it was announced yesterday will stay at the multiple world championship-winning squad in 2009 – currently sits 30 points adrift of his team-mate in the drivers' standings.
Alonso left McLaren two years before his three-year contract was due to expire at the end of the 2007 campaign, following a turbulent relationship with the British team during which the former double world champion repeatedly hinted that Hamilton was receiving preferential treatment over him – a situation that he believes is repeating itself with Kovalainen twelve months on.
“If Kovalainen continues to do what McLaren wants him to do, surely they will keep him for many more years as well,” Alonso – currently sitting a lowly ninth in the championship table with a scant 13 points to his name, compared to 68 at the same stage in 2007 – told Spanish broadcaster Telecinco
. “I cannot think of a race in which Heikki had the better race strategy compared with Hamilton. We saw in Hockenheim that he had to let his team-mate past.
“I wouldn't want to be playing that role. I would rather be fifth or sixth with Renault than fourth or fifth with McLaren. If I was racing for McLaren now, maybe I [would be] in the same position as I am now, without the possibility to win.
“I'm much happier this year. I am happy to be with Renault with the full support of the team, with everyone working night and day to give me the best car.
“I'm 27-years-old and with many years to come. Even Michael Schumacher spent four years at Ferrari without winning. I know I need to be patient and work harder than ever to be winning again.”
The Spaniard did, however, insist there were no lingering hard feelings one year on from his and Hamilton's much-publicised tit-for-tat qualifying spat in Hungary – a dispute that culminated in the former being docked five grid positions and threatening to blackmail McLaren team principal Ron Dennis by showing incriminating e-mails relating to the infamous spy scandal to the sport's governing body, the FIA.