SHANGHAI (AFP) - Fernando Alonso paid tribute on Thursday to former Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, who sensationally quit this week, and admitted that he had not even spoken to the new man at the helm.
The Italian stepped down on Monday, after a torrid start to the season, culminating most recently in the team's drivers trailing in ninth and 10th in Bahrain two weeks ago.
"Stefano is a great man, first of all, and I am a close friend of his - that is no secret," said Alonso in a press conference ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.
"We still have a close relationship, we have been talking throughout the week, and that will continue because we have known each other for many years," added the two-time world champion.
He was replaced by Marco Mattiacci, former president and CEO of Ferrari North America, and Alonso confessed he knew little about his new boss, who was absent from the circuit on Thursday.
The Spaniard added that he did not even know if Mattiacci would turn up in Shanghai for the weekend.
However, team sources indicated to AFP that Mattiacci was flying in on Thursday night and is due to meet his team for the first time on Friday.
Nevertheless, Alonso stressed that it was paramount to support the new boss and move forward. "We need to give him time and get the team behind him," he said.
"We are really hoping that he will be successful and everyone is looking forward."
As for the reasons for Domenicali's sudden departure, his close friend Alonso - who goes skiing with him on Jan 1 every year - was more effusive.
"We need to accept what Stefano decided," he said. "He wasn't in the mood to continue with the feeling of having everything on his shoulders. We need to respect his decision."
Domenicali was able to win only one constructors' championship during his six years in charge but Alonso said that with a little more luck he could have had a hat-trick of drivers' titles.
"As a team principal he made good choices and did good things," said the Spaniard.
"We had missed opportunities in 2012 and 2010, and they missed an opportunity with Felipe (Massa) in 2008. If not, he would have three championships in the pocket.
"He brought Kimi (Raikkonen) in. He did the right things."
Alonso also sought to downplay his fist-pumping "victory salute" after finishing a distant ninth behind winner Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in Bahrain.
The gesture had been interpreted by many observers as being a sarcastic response to the team's poor showing or, with hindsight, even a farewell to Domenicali. But Alonso said it was nothing of the sort.
"I was saying thanks to the mechanics," he said. "They had been working hard after a problem on the engine unit.
"We didn't have a solution for the problem even at twelve o'clock on Sunday and then in the race we had everything in the place.
"They did a fantastic job - and when they were on the pit wall saying 'hello', I said 'hello' too."