Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull Ring, 2018

Alonso: Hamilton is one of F1’s five greatest champions

2018 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton is one of the five greatest world championships Formula 1 has ever seen, according to his former team mate Fernando Alonso.

The pair had a difficult relationship when paired at McLaren during Hamilton’s debut season in 2007. But Alonso said it soon became clear Hamilton was capable of becoming one of the greats.

“Probably at that time it was difficult to imagine what the future could bring for Lewis and any of the guys on the grid,” said Alonso during today’s FIA press conference. “But definitely he showed the talent from day one, fighting for the championship in his rookie year, winning in 2008. Probably at the time we all agreed that five or seven world championships will be possible.

“Then obviously he was a little bit down due to the performance of the car for a couple of years. Switching to Mercedes, maybe at the time we all were thinking that maybe that was not positive because at that time Mercedes was struggling, 2013 and things like that. It’s up and down.

“I’m happy for him because he showed the talent from day one. He was able to win races when the car was there to win it but he was able to win races in some of the seasons that the car was not in the top of form like 2009 and things like that, he was still winning a couple of grands prix a year. It’s impressive and it’s now time to enjoy for him so I’m happy.”

Asked to name the five greatest champions in F1 history, Alonso chose Hamilton alongside Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Juan Manuel Fangio. Hamilton is set to equal Fangio if he wins his fifth world championship this weekend.

“Lewis winning five now and being the same as Fangio is a great achievement,” said Alonso. “If [any]one were to do that in our generation I’m happy that it’s Lewis because he showed the talent and the commitment.

Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Silverstone, 2007
Alonso was Hamilton’s team mate in 2007
“When the car was dominating he delivered and won the championship. When the car was not good enough to win the championship he still put in the performances to show the talent. That’s difficult to see in our days.”

Hamilton said it was “crazy” to think he could become the second driver in F1 history after Schumacher to reach Fangio’s tally of five world championship titles.

“Fangio is like a godfather of the whole sport for us,” said the Mercedes driver. “He’s one of the greats from the beginning, he will always be admired in the sport. It’s crazy to think I’m embarking on a similar number of championships that he had.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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61 comments on “Alonso: Hamilton is one of F1’s five greatest champions”

  1. I hate to be a what-abouter, but Jim Clark? 25 wins from 72 races, only finished second once, missed out on two championships in the final race of the season through car failure whilst in a winning position

    1. @frasier – Agree 100% Make it 6 Greatest.

      1. Totally agree. Jim was in a league of his own.

    2. He had the best car and weak teammates, like MS.

        1. Where’s the lie in that statement?

      1. Except in 1967 when he was paired with Graham Hill (41 to 15 in points) !

        1. Schumacher was also soundly beaten by Rosberg after his return to F1 in 2010. Was it that he had “lost it”? Maybe. Was it that Rosberg was actually a super quick driver?

          1. What MS lost when he went to Mercedes was the advantages he had hand over fist over all other drivers before or since when he was at Ferrari. Thankfully he didn’t get those at Mercedes even though I thought he would because of Brawn being there. But Nico was not only allowed to race him, he excelled over him, showing that MS needed all those advantages to compile his numbers. Nico could have cowered in his presence but didn’t, which is what helped me get behind him when LH came along.

      2. Sochi – that included: two-time world champion, Indy winner, Le Man winner – Graham Hill…

  2. people forget those that were dangerous years for formula one drivers…whereby going to a race weekend meant close brushes with danger and death….at any time…

    1. @spiderman Exactly. For me, while a driver such as LH is achieving great numbers, drivers these days are not performing great feats, so it is hard for me to consider them amongst the true greats who had much more of the driving in their hands, as well as their lives, vs today’s coddled drivers who are given target lap times to hit by engineers in order to manage their tires and equipment to a ridiculous extreme.

      I hope and expect the 2021 cars at least allow much more in the way of driver vs driver combat when safety and security are at an all time high for the drivers. I’m certainly not advocating for a more dangerous F1, but if the drivers are going to be rich and famous and hand-held, they should at least have to earn it in a harder way on the track.

  3. Can’t help but feel what these drivers say about their former team mates has an agenda attached to it. Webber, when he became a pundit always said Vettel was the class of the field. Alonso now also doing it (I know he has always said that but still). Now obviously Rosberg is on the same narrative. I am a big Lewis fan but I think this talk should be reserved for the end of his career when all is set and done.

    1. @blazzz coming out of Alonso’s mouth, you’re probably right, but he’s spot on in my view.

    2. Few people will rate Alonso any higher due to his stint together with Hamilton, @blazzz.
      It seems that half the fans hate the guy, and the other half put him in the top 5.

      1. At this point tbh it gets really hard to make a top 5 drivers list if you have more than 5 great drivers in f1 history.

        I personally would put schumacher on top as an all rounder, and alonso should be in there as well, pretty similar in that regard, then I think clark and senna were among the fastest of all times and clark made less mistakes than senna, prost was incredibly good with the car and with getting the maximum from every situation even if he wasn’t as fast as senna, and then you still have fangio, a complete driver, and ascari who was probably every bit as fast as fangio who should be in there but you’d have to kick out other drivers.

        Stewart and lauda certainly weren’t bad either, and hamilton ofc.

        1. It is just impossible to know. MS dominated obviously, but on his return versus NR he was embarrassed 2010-12. We all thought “poor old Michael, he is past it” but actually NR went on to show he was no slouch vs LH but not quite at his level. Who was best? MS, NR, LH, FA?
          Who can say, but comparing their respective seasons as teammates, LH can hold his head high

  4. Just a protagonish b*tch, he just wants to be in the papers one day more.

    1. I don’t quite understand what he said wrong. He can be quite egotistical and want to be at the center of attention at times, but this isn’t one of those cases.

      1. @mashiat – Right, it would be easier to understand the outcry if Alonso had named himself in the top 5. But, he didn’t.

        1. Didn’t he tie on points with Hamilton in their year together? By inference, that means…

        2. bull mello…..The outcry with some is to be expected, because Alonso felt as he said that, ” Hamilton among the top 5 drivers in F1 history.”

      2. @mashiat not to.mention that he was asked a question in the press conference and all he did was answer

    2. I feel for you dude. Somebody obviously did something very bad to you for you to spew out such hatred.
      Let it go – life is too short. It’s OK.

  5. No driver really seems to rate Vettel as one of the best. I recall how at the end of 2013, when Vettel was fresh from winning 4 WDCs and 9 races in a row, and a joint-record of 13 wins in a season, drivers were asked who was better among him and Alonso, and the only people who said Vettel were Ricciardo and Vergne (who were the Toro-Rosso drivers at the time, one of which was going to be Vettel’s teammate the following season). Compare that to seven drivers who claimed that Alonso was still better. I would really be interested to see the results if someone asked this question again in 2018, just to see whether perspectives change, as one has been at the front, while the other at the back of the field. A Hamilton vs. Vettel and Hamilton vs. Alonso comparison on driver opinions should also be interesting, including retired drivers, as they are less likely to be censored.

    1. I had Vettel pretty high in my all time list, @mashiat.
      But these final two years made me reconsider.

      1. Yeah, with Alonso you never expect a mistake, and these days you just hope Sebs mistakes aren’t too bad. I’m not a big fan of Alonso but I would trust him more than anyone if I were a passenger.

      2. He was great in 2017. He lost the title due to two consecutive mechanical failures in Malaysia and Japan. He did two mistakes in Baku and Singapore and the latter is a racing incident. 2018 is a different story though.

        1. You are forgetting a trait of German drivers to drive into their Championship rivals which took place in Mexico. Also even with those mechanical failure he lost the title to addiction to brainfarts.

    2. A drover should really be judged in the end of his career. Vettel is 31 which means that he can stay for another decade if he wants to (Hell Kimi is 39). Vettel can go down as an all time great if he beats Lewis which isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

      Only time can tell about how good Seb is. He is definitely one of the greatest drivers the sport has seen (perhaps not top 10 but top 20 for sure) and if he wins in 2019 against Lewis then…

      1. We will find out next year.

  6. I would pick Jim Clark ahead of Prost. My top 5 list would go;


    1. @blackmamba, you know, I do wonder why people tend to downrate Prost so much given that he really should be at least a five time champion (Piquet Sr really should have been disqualified from the 1983 championship for a car that was illegal – Bernie himself confirming it was illegal, and FISA basically temporarily rewrote the rules to avoid having to disqualify Brabham).

      Really, it does seem as if people rather hand waive away his own achievements, to the point where people almost blank it out completely. In the narrative about that era, rather than discussing the different characters, from Prost, Piquet and Mansell to the likes or Warwick or Boutsen, or the interplay between teams as they jostled for influence and power, most of the other drivers then are shoved to the side and it becomes all about Senna, with Prost often relegated to nothing more than a caricature stock villain scheming against Senna.

      1. I tend to agree with that as well, the other thing that makes Prost stand out is the quality of the opposition he had during his career. Hamilton never had this opposition level in my opinion, maybe only on 2007 against Alonso. Vettel is good as a rival but history shows that he’s not good to cope with the pressure like a true legend. To his credit , few drivers did. So Hamilton’s success was in a way made it a bit easier compared with Prost achievements. And it’s worth mentioning that these feats of more titles are increasingly easier to be achieved due to better reliability and career longevity due to safety reasons. But Hamilton is probably the best from his generation.

        1. Regards LH having poor teammates, NR destroyed MS 2010-12 in the merc. It was blamed on Schumacher being old at 41. Really?? Impossible to know that is why, but by that reasoning how did Fangio manage it? After all he won all 5 of his title when he was over 40! Different era I know. But what did ms lose, courage? You would have needed plenty of that in Fangio’s era.

      2. Make that a 6 time world champion. He definitely deserved the 1984 title, which he lost out on because of Monaco being flagged early. But alas, F1 history is littered with ifs and maybes, and can anyone deny that Lauda and Piquet are among the greatest drivers in their own right?

        1. Bellof and Senna would both have passed him had the race been allowed to finish, leaving him even fewer points.

    2. Blackmamba – Did you ever see Fangio drive? I am old enough to have see the maestro and I think him the very best that I ever saw – and I saw all on your list.

      It is probably foolish to compare drivers from different eras but is a fun way to while away a few hours in the pub. I rate Fangio because of the wide range of motor sports that he entered and dominated – when he was on track, one expected him to win.

      I also recall a story told by Stirling Moss. When Moss was team mate with Fangio at Daimler Benz, he would follow the maestro very closely. The team boss came to Moss and asked him to back off saying “What if Fangio makes a mistake?”. Moss responded “Fangio does not make mistakes”. The very experienced team manager looked at Moss very seriously for a few moments then said “You are right Herr Moss” and never raised the issue again.

      1. @gnosticbrian, I expect that there will not be many left these days who watched Fangio first hand given it’s 60 years since his last races (though his last competitive season was the year before that) – it’s a strange thing to think that there are some nation states on the calender which didn’t even exist when Fangio was racing.

        I would agree that, in many ways, it is a somewhat pointless exercise to try and compare the drivers across the years when the sport, much like the world at large, has evolved so rapidly. The skills that a driver might have required in one era might suit him poorly in another

        Furthermore, most people are usually biased towards who was the dominant driver of the era when they were first watching the sport – when you look at the trends in polls over the years, the driver that usually are towards the top of the rankings tend to be those who were at their peak around 20 to 30 years earlier – so, in the 1990s, you’d usually see Fangio, Clark, Stewart and Fittipaldi tending to dominate – figures like Gurney and Brabham were often up there too, such that drivers like Senna, Schumacher and Prost were usually relegated to the lower half of the top ten.

        Now that the age profile of the fan base has shifted, so have the fan favourites. Fittipaldi and Stewart have fallen back, and to some extent Clark seems to be falling out of favour as well, whilst Senna has been on the rise – to some extent, that probably also reflects the fact that he hit his peak just at the point where the sport became more of a global phenomenon, whereas footage of those earlier drivers is so much scarcer.

        It also has to be said that the average fan generally tends to base his view of “the greatest driver” based on the sole metric he can use, which is race and championship victories. The problem then becomes separating the qualities of the driver from that of his team, because it may well be that there were drivers of great talent whose abilities were hidden by poor cars, so the viewpoint of the engineers in the sport is sometimes different to that of the average fan.

        For example, Forghieri, one of the great designers of the sport from the 60s to the 80s, maintained that Chris Amon was probably one of the most talented drivers he ever saw and worked with, but had the misfortune of always being at the wrong team at the wrong time – yet, given his lack of victories, I imagine that Amon is a driver who barely registers with a lot of fans.

        1. We can all agree that all the great names you mentioned fit in one category which is that they had special abilities that allowed them to understand racing better than the rest and were able to live on the edge on a regular basis.

          With that said, I believe that out of this group you get a few drivers that couldn’t not just live on the edge but go past it while trying to find their limits. I can’t say about Fangio exactly because I never saw him race however, I believe he is definitely one of these few based on how many who knew him described his driving.

          So, though there were many drivers in the past that were as fast as Senna or Hamilton or Fangio, we are not speaking about them today because they probably were not as complete as the “top 5”. They were fast but not as smart. They were smart but not that fast or unfortunately smart and quick but had no money. With that said though, … Hamilton, beating many in a crappy cart, hustling dad. Came from jack.

          Long story short, the “top 5” are there because they were accurate, fast and smart ALL the damn time and money, team, car, racing conditions, or off track issues kept them from winning. The question then remains, who was the most complete racing drivers of all time that were best at conquering any driver or circumstance they came up against? Schumacher I hate because I don’t think he was a cheater however, he did one thing damn well and that was getting a team behind him. And even though I think he was not as fast as he looked, he was dead accurate and accuracy can make up for A LOT of other issues or shirt coming.

          Hamilton definitely ticks all these boxes. He beat every teammate, won in every car, every cart, in every team and you have to look really hard to find a mistake. Not only that but the states testifies to this as well. It’s one thing to break similar records. It’s another thing all together to break contrasting ones such as most pole positions against teammates, race wins and championships in deferent cars and teams and champions beaten and accomplishments in deferent categories. All these things testify that you Hamilton are one freak of nature.

        2. Anon – I half agree with you about Chris Amon. Where I depart is that he had good cars at times but always had terrible misfortune. So bad that Mario Andretti once said “If Chris opened a mortician’s parlour, people would stop dying”.

          I watched Amon at Spa on the old circuit, follow Pedro Rodriguez’s BRM for lap after lap. Chris’s March and his helmet becoming ever more covered in oil coming from the back of the BRM. I expected Pedro’s car to explode [as it did all too often] but it held together for the win [the BRM had a very big oil tank]. Chris could never cut a break but seemed to take it in good heart; unlike the modern era whingers [not ALL modern drivers]. Incidentally, Pedro was a very good peddler.

    3. Stewart should be there amongst them too.

  7. Oooohhhhhh look at them, time does heal everything <3

    1. @johnmilk I’m fairly certain that Alonso has lauded Hamilton as the best very soon after their acrimonious relationship in 2007. Even at the start of 2008, he predicted that Hamilton would win the championship.

  8. Well the comments section should be interesting to read.

  9. Well, in lthis case, it conveniently helps sell that Alonso only drew even with a rookie bc. he was so great, already then,effectively upselling himself as pretty great. Oh, and it puts down Vettel isn’t w. that top 5, then. Seems legit, right? Or maybe I am a bit cynical with respect to what Alonso says @johnmilk, and he is just genuinely impressed (will watch some of the presser tomorrow, I guess).

    1. @bosyber we have the same opinion, I was just expressing mine in a romantic/sarcastic way

      1. Probably should have figured that @johnmilk :-)

  10. Without a doubt Hamilton is one of the greats.

    I feel Alonso really considers Hamilton to be better than Vettel but also his reason to leave Ferrari after 5 years was that Ferrari would at best come second and he was tired of coming second.

    So he probably secretly wishes for a Mercedes and Hamilton champioship win and Ferrari to be second or lower to be proven correct.

  11. Looking at the results hes probably right. I really think it’s very hard comparing drivers from different eras. Especially in F1 where your car is the most important difference with your rivals.

    I’ve never seen Senna and Prost race myself but I’ve seen enough of it to know they had a pretty good car when they won their championships. Prost did actually out score Senna in 88 so he must have been pretty impressive against Senna.

    I did see Schumacher race in his Ferrari days and he was pretty impressive even before they had the dominant car in the zeros. I actually lost my interest in F1 when he won everything at some point but I loved the seasons when 1st Williams and later mclaren with Hakkinen fought with him.

    My big issue with F1 in the hybrid era is that Mercedes was so dominant that Lewis got his big numbers very easily imho. It is even more than with Ferrari and Schumacher. But that doesn’t mean Lewis isn’t a F1 great. He is an amazing driver. It just would be more fun if he got a real good opponent as well. Not Rosberg or Bottas

    1. So lewis got his very easily? I remember Schumacher having a clear support driver and Lewis for much of it a determined rosberg biting at his heels.

      1. I remember ferrari 2004 being 0,5 sec faster than the 2nd car, not over 1 sec like mercedes!

  12. I watched the press conference (a rarity for me) and I’m glad I did… seeing it spoken definitely says a lot more than just reading the words. Alonso’s known for being a bit ‘tricksy’ but this seemed real.

    I think he’s said a lot of it before (it’s not the first time he’s been clear that he rates Hamilton very highly, certainly over Vettel), but I don’t recall him being this pleasant in the past. And as there’s no real reason for him to be overly pleasant, I think it was genuine.

  13. So modest of Alonso to say that because he is still better than Hamilton. Alonso never got beaten by a teammate but Hamilton did. In every team!!

  14. Alonso is better than Hamilton!. Alonso never got beaten by a teammate. Alonso was just being humble to say a few warm words about Hamilton.

    1. You mean apart from 2007 when Hamilton himself beat him and again in 2015 when Button finished ahead in the points.

  15. I can’t stand ignorant comments like these. Firstly, you can’t compare again champs of the past or extra special people like Fangio and Senna. I would separate them by class. The champions of the past are special people that deserve their success with the exception of a few cheaters. Then there are extra special people who to me are like F1s Hall of Famers. These people only care about one thing and that’s being as good as they possibly can. Yes they want to win but that’s not first. These people live for the fight for the opportunity to see how good they really are. They race hard regardless if they have a chance to win or not. They attack quali not just to be first but it’s another measuring stick to see if they really are the best. Everything is training to them. There are more than five people like this that have raced in formula 1. I think that Hamilton is definitely in the top five. Forget the details because you will be here for a long time sifting through it. All I know is, this sport is decades old and of all those years, only two have achieved more than five Championships. It’s Schumacher and Fangio. Now, we finally are about to get another. It’s a surprise to no one who watches formula 1 with BOTH eyes open.

    Regardless of what you say, he’s about to be in the top three WITHOUT CHEATING. period.

  16. Alonso is more subtle than he is being given credit.

    He’s saying Hamilton deserves his place by demonstrating talent, but that Vettel by omission does not.
    His talk of Hamilton succeeding when the car is bad, and it isn’t just about winning when the car is the best
    is implicitly a dig at Vettel, as is omitting a 4x world champion from the list.

  17. I’m always amused when I keep reading: “I really think it’s very hard comparing drivers from different eras.” – as if the writer is the first person to think of this… ;-)

    1. so keep on reading it then and be amused ;)

      1. Haha – I see what you did there…

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