Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso insist that get along 'just fine' off the track, despite speculation to the contrary in both motorsport and national media.

While admitting that, once the helmets go on, friendship becomes rivalry, both claim that the media has fuelled an imaginary rift between them this season, making life difficult within the McLaren camp. Now, on the eve of a three-way title showdown also involving Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, the pair attempted to demonstrate just how far from the truth some of the year's stories have been.

"I think it's as good as ever," Hamilton said of the friendship, "I think we have got on quite well all year, despite what the media says. They always try to make a big gap between us and they haven't really succeeded. We just get on quite well and got on with our jobs, and we continue to do that."

"As Lewis said, the media has been saying many, many things about us that weren't true," Alonso concurred, "We never had problems with each other. We are obviously fighting on the track but, off the track, we have had a very good relationship from day one and it's still the same.

"I think, when you see us together, it is only on the Saturday afternoon and at the 'meet the team' press conference, and then it is just after qualifying and we are very focused on the race, the strategy, the result of the qualifying, so it is maybe not a very relaxed moment. Here, on this Thursday, I don't see any change from the last ten months."

Both agreed that they were intensely competitive individuals, but admitted that there was unlikely to be any repeat of their clash at the first corner in Belgium.

"We love competition and, if we were not Formula One drivers, then maybe we would be in a different sport or somewhere else, competing against someone," Alonso reasoned, "It is our life.... Outside the track, I think everyone has a different character and a different way to live but, here in the paddock, we do so much and sometimes we win and enjoy it more and sometimes we lose and we have days of disappointments.

Although Hamilton could escape a first corner clash with his team-mate and still claim the title depending on how Raikkonen finished, neither McLaren driver really wanted his season to end that way.

"We are professional racing drivers and I think, obviously, we don't want to crash with any of the drivers," Hamilton commented, "Neither of us wants to crash on Sunday. For me, you go in [to the first corner] ideally wanting to take the lead or to gain a place, but without taking too many risks. In our own experience, we know what too much of a risk is and what too little is?? 1/2 I don't feel we are going to have any problems."

"I have to finish the race," Alonso agreed, "I have to risk, for sure, to take places if I have an opportunity but, as I said, my principal aim is to finish the race."



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