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FORMULA 1

Alonso burns rubber in pre-season show down

Former two-time world champion Fernando Alonso gave gas in his new Ferrari to clock the best time on the third day of pre-season Formula One testing at the Catalunya circuit on Thursday.

Alonso burns rubber in pre-season show down
Fernando Alonso scorched around the Catalunya circuit in Thursday´s pre-season trials. Photo: Norimasa Hayashida

The Spaniard had taken a rain check on the first four-day session in Jerez earlier in February, but he continued to demonstrate he had lost none of his sharpness over the winter by piloting his Ferrari to a best time of 1min 21.875 seconds off a total of 97 laps.

Nico Hulkenberg, in a Sauber, came in second fastest with 1min 22.160 seconds while French Lotus-pilot  Romain Grosjean, notched up the third best time of 1min 22.188 seconds off 119 laps.

Alonso, the runner-up to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel last season, improved his time from Tuesday by a second and was just a coat of paint or two off the week's best time of 1min 21.848 seconds set by Sergio Perez in the McLaren on Wednesday.

"The track was a lot colder than yesterday, especially in the morning. That made it more difficult to find the right level of grip," said Alonso. 

"Tyre management will be crucial this season; they are softer and faster, but they also degrade a lot faster."

Germany's Adrian Sutil, competing with Frenchman Jules Bianchi for the only drive left this season — with Force India – was eighth fastest.

Sutil, out of the sport for 15 months, improved by a second the best Force India time of the week so far set by Paul di Resta.

"This team knows me well because I spent six years with them," said Sutil.

"I wanted to show them that I am still quick and that was very important. I can sleep peacefully. I have done all I can to get back into F1. I don't know who is the favourite for the drive, it's up to Force India to decide."

The new season opens in Melbourne, Australia on March 17.

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FORMULA ONE

F1’s former world champ Alonso to leave Ferrari

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso's five-year spell with Ferrari will be over at the end of the season after the Italian 'Scuderia' confirmed the Spaniard's departure on Thursday.

F1's former world champ Alonso to leave Ferrari
Fernando Alonso has been widely tipped to join McLaren next season. Photo: Tom Gandolfini/AFP

In a statement that paid tribute to Alonso's contribution to the Formula One giants, Ferrari ended months of speculation regarding Alonso, who has been tipped to return to the McLaren team.

"Scuderia Ferrari and Fernando Alonso announce that, by common consent, they have ended their relationship," said a statement.

"Fernando Alonso leaves the team at the end of this season, after a five year period which, with one race remaining, saw him score 1186 points, 44 podiums and 11 wins.

"Everyone at Scuderia Ferrari thanks Fernando for his great contribution on both a personal and professional level."

Alonso, who won two world titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006, ultimately failed to bring a world drivers' title to Ferrari having come runner-up three times for the team whose logo is the Prancing Horse.

The 33-year-old Spaniard has recently been tipped to return to the McLaren team, where he spent a turbulent season in 2007. But he admitted leaving Ferrari was not an easy decision to make.    

Alonso said: "Today is not an easy one for me, because even if I always look to the future with great enthusiasm and determination, at the end of this season my journey as a Ferrari driver will come to an end.

"It was a difficult decision to take, but a carefully considered one and from start to finish, my love for Ferrari was a prime consideration.

"I leave Scuderia Ferrari after five years, during which I reached my very best level professionally, tackling major challenges that pushed me to find new limits.

"Thanks to the efforts of the men and women of Maranello, on three occasions we came second in the Formula 1 World Championship, two of them fighting for the title right up to and including the final race, running in a championship winning position for many laps."

"Now I look to the future with great enthusiasm, knowing that part of my heart will always belong to the Prancing Horse.

"I want to thank each and everyone of the team for the trust they showed in me."

Team Principal, Marco Mattiacci, said: "We offer him our heartfelt thanks for what has been an extraordinary adventure with the Scuderia, when in the past five years, he twice came so close to winning the world championship.

"I am sure that a great driver like Fernando will always hold the Prancing Horse dear to his heart and I also expect the Ferrari fans will continue to hold him in high regard in his future endeavours."

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