Montezemolo reacts to Mercedes praise by calling Alonso “best driver in the world”

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Luca di Montezemolo has reacted to comments by Mercedes and Fernando Alonso by calling the Spaniard “the best driver in the world” and blasting those linking him with a move away from Maranello.

For some time now, the rumor mill has gone into overdrive suggesting that Alonso could leave the team after failing to win a world title since joining in 2010. In Spain, an interesting story broke suggesting that he could move to Mercedes. All parties denied this, and, as I wrote last week, it seems pretty improbable.

Earlier this week, though, Mercedes chairman Dieter Zetsche openly praised Alonso, and the Spaniard was more than happy to receive such positive feedback.

“It’s always welcome when people see your job in a good way, and respect what you try to achieve,” he said in Monaco. “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.”

In reaction to this final comment, Montezemolo has today been quoted in a statement on the Ferrari website heaping praise on the two-time world champion.

“Fernando is the best driver in the world, who always gives 200% in the races,” the Ferrari president explained. “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.”

Montzemolo admitted that the car has not been good enough of late, and has began to take steps to bring Ferrari out of the doldrums after going over one year without a win.

“The truth is that he and Kimi [Raikkonen], another incredible driver, need a competitive Ferrari and giving them that is our sole objective.

“We are working very hard, starting with Marco Mattiacci, who knows what needs to be done and who will instigate many changes at a technical and organizational level and in speeding up the decision-making process.

“That’s what I want, as do our drivers and our fans, while all the rest is just idle chat.”

Alonso was famously quoted last year as saying that he wanted “someone else’s car” for his birthday, prompting a rebuttal from Montezemolo. Quite whether all is right at Ferrari is unclear, but both Alonso and the team will be focused on enjoying a successful weekend in Monaco for the time being.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski