Fernando Alonso made his traditional appearance high above the main square in his native Oviedo at the weekend, but this time attempted to shower praise on his fans rather than accept the plaudits they had previously offered for his two world titles.

The Spaniard greeted the 6000 people crammed into the square outside the city hall - and several thousand more dotted around Oviedo, watching the event on big screens, by telling them that they had been the reason for his efforts through to the finale at Interlagos. The fans turned out in similar number to both 2005 and 2006, when Alonso appeared as world champion, cheering their hero to the echo and hoisting placards confirming their support.

Alonso ignored several banners that made reference to McLaren rival Lewis Hamilton, but promised to be back on top next season - despite the likelihood that he will be leaving McLaren for a 'lesser' force in 2008.

"Today is a day to honour you," Alonso insisted in his five-minute speech, "Even though I am not champion, you have made me very happy and very proud.

"There has never been support like this in Formula One, and that has been very special. It is a privilege to have this support and, this year, you have surpassed yourselves. You have been incredible. You have supported me when I most needed it - in hard moments, when I have been depressed, your messages of support lifted me.

"To know that you were there caused me to get up each day with the same determination. Without you, I would not have had the will to try again next year, but we are going to beat them in 2008."

The double world champion - who has been linked to Toyota, Williams and Renault for next season - also acknowledged the sea of flags representing the Asturias region, pointing out that the colours had been recognised around the world.

"To see this blue tide at the circuits is very gratifying," he smiled, "Japanese, Chinese, people of the entire world, have carried flags of Asturias to do what you do. Next year will again be difficult - the same as for all 22 drivers - but I have your support, and we will fight together. I am going to give it my all for you."

 

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