LEWIS Hamilton has revealed his toughest-ever rival in Formula One is Fernando Alonso.
And the Spanish veteran, 41, quickly returned the compliment by describing Brit Hamilton as a “legend”.
Hamilton and Alonso didn’t always see eye-to-eye
Dutch ace Verstappen pipped Hamilton to the F1 title after an epic battle
It will surprise many fans that Hamilton did not choose Max Verstappen after the Dutch star pipped him to the title last year.
While they might now be engaging in a public love-in, Hamilton and Alonso had a heated rivalry as McLaren team-mates in 2007.
Hamilton told Sky Sports: “I remember the task of being alongside Fernando when I was 22.
“I was so young mentally and of course, OK in terms of skill, but it’s a lot of pressure to go against a great like him.
“So I would say out of pure pace, I always say my toughest opponent is Fernando and his ability.
“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.”
At that time Hamilton was the new kid on the block and Alonso had won the F1 title in the two previous years with Renault.
However their competition at McLaren was so intense that Alonso left to return to Renault.
And in 2008, that left Hamilton in the clear as McLaren’s No1 driver to bag the first of his seven world titles.
That feisty year with Alonso is something Hamilton has clearly never forgotten.
Alonso has completed a shock switch from Alpine to Aston Martin.
And he said: “Lewis had the talent already in 2007 and he still has the talent now. He has been a tremendous driver, and a legend of our sport.
“So it has been always a pleasure to share all this time with him and back then probably no one thought that someone will be able to win seven titles like Michael Schumacher.”