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Closer rivalry has not chilled our friendship insist Alonso and Sainz

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso (left) and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Spanish Formula One great Fernando Alonso and his compatriot Carlos Sainz said on Thursday they remain close friends despite the former’s Aston Martin car being more competitive with the latter’s Ferrari this year.

Two-time world champion Alonso, 41, and Sainz will clash on the track again this weekend in the Austrian Grand Prix but they ridiculed reports back in Spain they have fallen out.

Alonso blasted the level of journalism in Spain as “low” adding “we try to avoid our country, unfortunately, for many things”.

Alonso has been a revelation this year in a drive he picked up after fellow former world champion Sebastian Vettel retired at the end of last season — the Spaniard drove for Alpine the previous two campaigns.

He presently sits third in the standings on 117 points whereas Sainz and Ferrari have once again encountered problems — the Spaniard is fifth in the title race on 68 points, 14 clear of team-mate Charles Leclerc.

The duo have had their moments on the track this term — notably Sainz sending Alonso into a spin in Australia.

However, they claim it is sweetness and light between the two of them.

“We are good friends inside the circuit and outside as well,” said Alonso at Thursday’s press conference which Sainz attended as well.

“There are many stupid things being written, and this year, because I have a competitive car and we are fighting close together on track… In Spain, we are like this.

“We have to unfortunately know that the level of journalism in Spain is low, generally.

“That’s the way it is. We are not often in Spain unfortunately and we try to avoid our country, unfortunately, for many things.”

‘Enjoy the moment’

Sainz, 28, conceded they were locked together in a more competitive contest this year but added off the track it made no difference to their friendship.  

“It’s not like we need to be in a press conference to prove it or to show it,” said Sainz.

“If you look at when we are in the drivers’ parade or around the paddock, you can just tell the relationship is like it has always been.

“It’s true that this year there’s more competition because we are fighting for similar positions but for me that always stays on the track.”

Sainz — who says he hopes Ferrari are at a turning point in their fortunes — added he and Alonso were too seasoned a pair of campaigners to allow professional differences intrude on their personal relationship.

“I know how to separate the track from the outside of the track,” said Sainz.

“I’ve always been good at it, and Fernando has always been good at it and we are both mature enough to know that.

“We are just going to try and enjoy the moment, because it’s a good moment for F1 in Spain and to spoil it with stupid stuff that might come out, I don’t think it is worth it.

“It’s not worth even giving my attention or commenting on it, because it’s giving importance or attention to people that just wants to do something bad.”

Should both drivers end up in the first three on Sunday it would be the first time two Spanish drivers ended on the podium.

“Fernando is on the podium nearly every race so I am the one who is preventing it happening,” said Sainz smiling.

Alonso said one thing would make it easier to achieve.

“If the two Red Bulls were out it would make it happen sooner!”

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