Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has played down what appeared to be a veiled criticism of the team by Fernando Alonso and has given his backing to the two-time Formula One champion.

Responding to praise that was heaped on the Spanish driver last week by Mercedes chairman Dieter Zetsche, Alonso said, "it's sometimes strange to see good comments and compliments from people from outside, and the opposite from people who are supposed to be close to you".

Fernando is the best driver in the world, who always gives 200 percent

Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari President

Alonso had a strained relationship with Ferrari last year, and Di Montezemolo does not need any more controversy as his team struggles to keep up with runaway leader Mercedes.

"Fernando is the best driver in the world, who always gives 200 percent," Di Montezemolo said. "He knows how much I count on him, even away from the race track, in terms of his contribution and the impetus he gives to the team.

"I think it's incredible that there are still some so-called experts who don't understand that and are always looking for a polemical situation that simply doesn't exist."

Relations between Alonso and Ferrari have sometimes been strained. Alonso was given a public rebuke from Di Montezemolo for comments he made after the Hungarian Grand Prix last July.

The day after that race, where he finished fifth, the Spaniard was asked what he would like as a 32nd birthday present and responded with an acerbic "somebody else's car".

Alonso has not won a race since last year's Spanish GP - a barren run of 19 races - and he has finished on the podium once so far this season, at last month's China GP. He is third overall, 51 points behind Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.'

Source: AP