McLaren pair lauded by ex-critics
FRIENDS AGAIN? McLaren'd Lewis Hamilton - seen here during practice for the 2011 Abu Dhabi F1 GP - has been praised by his former arch-enemy. Image: AFP
Author: Alan Baldwin
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Jenson Button brushed off rare praise on Friday from former boss Flavio Briatore ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP as McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton welcomed surprisingly warm words from one-time foe Fernando Alonso.
The flamboyant Briatore was Button's boss at Benetton/Renault through 2001 and 2002 and the Italian has made clear since that he did not rate the Briton. Even during Button's 2009 championship year with Brawn, Briatore compared him to a concrete bollard.
'HE'D ALWAYS BEEN NEGATIVE'
Briatore has now told Italian radio last week, however, that he had been wrong in his assessment and, with the English driver currently second overall and ahead of Hamilton, had not realised quite how good Button was.
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Button told British reporters. "Flavio is very outspoken. I suppose it's nice for him to realise his wrong decisions and to turn around and say that.
“Until this year he had always been negative, even when I won the World championship, even in 2010 he said the results I was getting were down to luck. So, it's nice, but unnecessary.
"It really doesn't mean much to me. I read it and it made me smile, then I forgot it."
Also a surprise, Lewis Hamilton, fastest in Friday practice at Yas Marina, found himself the subject of positive comments from Alonso to Italian reporters.
The Spaniard, who replaced Button at Renault in 2003 and was Hamilton's team mate for a tortured season at McLaren, hailed the Briton as the only rival he felt could win races even when his car was not the best.
He also singled him out as a man to watch during off-season testing.
'NICE TO KNOW'
"I'm blown away that Fernando is so positive towards me, despite my season and also despite the differences we've had," Hamilton told reporters. "I think our friendship and the respect we have for each other has got a lot stronger. It's nice to see that coming out because I have only ever said he is one of the best - if not the best - driver here.
"It's nice to know I've got support from some drivers."
Alonso's comments may not go down so well with own Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa, who has clashed repeatedly with Hamilton on track this season and is barely on speaking terms with the Briton.