January 17th, 2013 (F1plus Team).- There’s no one thing for sure we can say about Fernando Alonso and his feelings for his former teammate: respect.
Surprisingly, the Spaniard has named Lewis Hamilton over no other but the current and consecutively three times champion Sebastian Vettel, as his toughest rival. Alonso described the British driver as the 'strongest driver' in Formula 1 at this moment.
The man from the Asturias province in Spain is entering his fourth season with the red team, and while speaking at Ferrari's annual Wrooom event at the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort in Italy, has warned that although Hamilton is at a team which has won just one race in three seasons, his skills should not be underestimated.
"Who is (the) strongest driver? My answer is Hamilton," Alonso said of his former adversary on Thursday. "It was true last year, it was true this year. The strongest driver? It is a personal opinion, not political, not to make people think something. Who is the strongest opponent, the strongest driver on grid? Who is the one you have to keep an eye on? It is Hamilton, and it will still be Hamilton next year."
Alonso also believes that Mercedes will shine and that Hamilton will bring more than just one victory to the silver bullets.
"I am sure he will be able to win (races)," said Alonso, who finished second in the season, just three points less than the eventual champion Vettel.
"Mercedes already won last year with Nico and Lewis has been winning races with all cars. Even in 2009 with a car that was two seconds off the pace, they ended the year winning. Lewis will be able to win with Mercedes as well."
Initially, it seemed as if Alonso was overlooking the current champion, but then he cleared the air by expressing his admiration while acknowledging Vettel’s driving talent.
"I am not saying he is not the strongest driver,” said a pressed Alonso.
“In 2011, there were fantastic performances from him. It is true the car was far in front of everybody, they (Red Bull) were first and second consistently, and when the car is good you tend to relax in some races.
"But I remember difficult races in 2011 with wet to dry conditions, and he did not make a single mistake. So for sure in these past three years there were moments when he was better than anybody else and he deserved these three championships."