Lewis Hamilton shows off his 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 car
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Lewis Hamilton has claimed that Fernando Alonso is the toughest opponent he has faced in his Formula One career. The declaration comes as a clear snub to current world champion Max Verstappen who has been overlooked despite their fierce title battle in 2021.
Hamilton and Verstappen were the two main protagonists during last season’s championship which is widely regarded to be one of the most intense in the sports history. The Red Bull man finally prevailed in highly controversial circumstances, passing the Briton in the final lap of the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton has since fallen away from the Dutchman over the course of 2022 with Mercedes struggling to adapt to the new regulations while the drinks manufacturer has excelled. Verstappen now sits top of the World Driver’s Championship, 99 points clear of his great rival.
Despite their battle last season, the seven-time world champion has overlooked the 24-year-old for the title of his greatest rival in favour of Alpine driver Alonso. The Spaniard was Hamilton’s team mate during his first season in the sport with McLaren and it is this period that the Brit describes as the toughest of his career.
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“I think it’s difficult to say who’s necessarily been the strongest competitor because every time you’re with someone you’re in a different place in your life,” the 37-year-old began. “I remember the task of being alongside Fernando when I was 22. I was so young mentally and of course, okay in terms of skill but it’s a lot of pressure to go against a great like him.
“I would say out of pure pace I always say it’s Fernando and ability.
The French Grand Prix will be Hamilton’s 300th career race in the sport joining an elite band of five drivers in achieving the feat. The names include some of the sport’s top former stars like Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. The only current name is Alonso, something that is poignantly felt by the Briton given he started his career alongside him.
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“I don’t think he has changed,” the 103-time race winner said. “He had the talent in 2007 and he still has the talent now. With the experience, he has been a tremendous driver, a legend of our sport.
“We had some good battles, I wish we could have more and hopefully he’s going to continue to race so hopefully we will have more in the future.”
Hamilton, Verstappen and Alonso will all face off this weekend at the Circuit Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix, the 12th instalment of a 22-race season.
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