Sao Paulo: McLaren teammates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso replaced feuding with friendship on Thursday in a disconcerting display of camaraderie before their Formula One title battle in Brazil.
The breakdown in relations between 22-year-old Hamilton, leading Alonso in the championship by four points, and the Spanish double world champion has dominated headlines this season.
Alonso has angrily accused McLaren of favouring Hamilton, who has been backed by the team for more than a decade, after himself being denied any special treatment.
Hamilton questioned Alonso’s loyalty to McLaren after a spying controversy cost them the constructors’ title and said in Japan last month that he did not think he and Alonso could remain teammates next year.
On Thursday, looking relaxed and smiling, they appeared side by side at a news conference at the Interlagos circuit ahead of Sunday’s race. It was as if the bad blood of the previous months was only imaginary.
“I think it’s as good as ever,” Hamilton said of the relationship. “I think we have got on quite well all year, despite what the media have said. We have just got on quite well and got on with our job.”
Alonso, who joined from Renault at the end of last season but whose future at McLaren now looks uncertain despite his having a contract for next year, agreed.
“People have said many, many things about us, but they were not true. We never have problems with each other,” he said.
“Obviously we are fighting on the track but outside the track we had a very good relationship from day one, so it’s still the same.”
The Spaniard also expressed confidence in his team after angrily telling Spanish reporters at the last Chinese Grand Prix that he could have little trust in what team boss Ron Dennis might do.
Alonso had dominated the early stages of qualifying in Shanghai but suddenly lost time in the final showdown, ending up fourth while Hamilton seized pole position.
The governing FIA have responded to concern in Spain that Alonso might not get equal treatment to Hamilton by appointing a special officer in Brazil to keep an eye on what goes on in the McLaren garage.
Far from supporting the move, Alonso felt it was unnecessary. “I don’t agree probably with that decision, but it’s not up to us,” he said. “We don’t need anything like that in the garage. I trust the team, despite what happened in China.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, says his failure to win in China has made him more relaxed.
“It definitely didn’t make me more nervous. If anything it took pressure off my shoulders and I think I came out of it even stronger,” he said.
“I thought it would knock my confidence and put me on the back foot but I went away and thought about the weekend and I think now I’m even stronger than I was, for whatever reason,” he added.