Ferrari president lauds Alonso, criticises Hamilton

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MILAN, Oct 23 (Reuters) Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has praised McLaren driver Fernando Alonso after he lost his world title by just one point to the Italian team's Kimi Raikkonen.

''Alonso is world class in every sense, an extraordinary driver,'' Montezemolo told Italian reporters.

''I have appreciated very much his sportsmanship. He lost by one point and I believe it wasn't his fault.'' Alonso's relationship with McLaren has suffered after he accused them of favouring rookie driver Lewis Hamilton.

There was speculation during the season that the Spaniard could move to Ferrari but they then extended Felipe Massa's contract.

Montezemolo was less complimentary about 22-year-old Hamilton, who led the standings going into Sunday's final grand prix in Brazil and could still snatch the title if a McLaren appeal lifts him up from his seventh place finish in Interlagos.

''I must say that in the course of the season he has not always behaved exemplarily,'' said Montezemolo, who added that the Briton's ''youth and nervousness'' had contributed to his problems.

Flavio Briatore, boss of Alonso's former Renault team and a possible destination for the Spaniard, said McLaren did everything possible to lose the drivers' title given the tension between their two racers.

''In the last races they should have left Alonso out. They should have put a reserve in Alonso's place and Hamilton would have won without any problem,'' Briatore told Antenna 3 television.

REUTERS TB BD1620

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