Hamilton and Alonso were ‘F1’s best driver pairing ever’

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McLaren’s 2007 driver pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso was the best the sport has ever seen, former driver Pedro de la Rosa has said.

Hamilton and Alonso lasted just one season as team mates in 2007, before Alonso cut his contract short and left following an acrimonious fall-out with McLaren’s management over the ‘Spygate’ affair.

“I was surprised at how it all exploded, unfortunately,” de la Rosa, the team’s test driver at the time, told the official F1 website, “because if we look back, that driver pairing is possibly the strongest there’s ever been. Ever.”

The pair won four races each as team mates and ended the season tied on 109 points – Hamilton ahead on count-back of second-place finishes. But Kimi Raikkonen edged them to the title by one point, and McLaren were disqualified from the constructors’ championship as part of their Spygate punishment.

Nonetheless De la Rosa, who was able to observe Alonso and Hamilton at close quarters during 2007, believes the duo should be considered above McLaren’s 1988-89 driver pairing Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost as the best the sport has ever seen.

“I always think that the new generations are stronger,” said de la Rosa. “So it’s nothing against Senna, Prost, they are they are my heroes, forever heroes.

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De la Rosa worked alongside Alonso and Hamilton in 2007
“But actually, I think that level of Fernando, Lewis was amazing. I mean, I remember looking at their data and thinking ‘these guys are from a different planet’.

“I was not expecting for their relationship to explode. It was a shame because those two guys they would have brought so many championships to McLaren.”

Despite the developing fracture between Alonso and the team, De la Rosa said the relationship between him and Hamilton remained respectful.

“They always respected each other massively at the track because they knew how good the other was,” he said. “Although they never said publicly, they had a lot of respect for each other.

“There was nothing wrong ever done at the race track between them. It was always a strong fight, but fair. There was nothing, no pushing or just breaking the front wing, nothing. There was just two gladiators fighting bravely at the race track. So I have no bad memories about that.”

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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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67 comments on “Hamilton and Alonso were ‘F1’s best driver pairing ever’”

  1. Gosh! PDLR is getting a lot of coverage for his wild takes on matters of long long long ago.

    Together with Kovaleinen he must be the least memorable F1 driver ever. Will be forgotten as a very nice chap and a bosom buddy of Alonso.

    1. He was interviewed in a podcast episode which is an hour long. Why Racefans never mention the fact is beyond me, instead dropping two articles with selected transcripts from the interview. I didn’t listen to it yet, but he was surely asked about it. I mean they usually go through their whole careers. It’s not like he’s talking about this out of the blue.

    2. I would consider Senna-Prost as a rather strong line-up

      1. Senna – Prost certainly
        Hunt – Lauda
        Mansell – Piquet
        Schumacher – Hakkinen

        If we go back to the heady year of 2005 it’s Raikkonen – Alonso; and Kimi would have walked it had he not been robbed by the most unreliable McLaren ever produced versus the cast iron Renault that inherited half the wins. Martin Brundle: “The fastest driver in the fastest car is not going to win the title this year.”

        1. Eh? Think you’ve misunderstood both the article and the comments. This refers to the strongest driver “pairing” as in team pairing.

  2. What about Moss and Fangio?

  3. 2007 was an amazing year in F1. When Lewis burst onto the scene. I was aware of him in F3 and GP2 as a driving force but was not expecting what happened in F1. No other driver including Max Verstappen has made such an entry into this sport, and gone on to win at least one race and one pole position in each year he has driven in F1. Not all his cars were good eg. the 2009 car was rubbish but by the end of the season he’d taken two wins with it.

    1. Max had a lot of hype around him… but his first season in F1 was nothing for the record books. Honestly, Sainz looked as good as him in their first season together.

    2. José Lopes da Silva
      19th March 2020, 11:00

      I agree that Hamilton’s rookie season can by far be considered the most impressive of the last, IDK, 4 decades. Jacques Villeneuve had a good season but he was paired with Hill, not Alonso.

      Verstappen’s rookie season was in a midfield team with less pressure. The thing people forget, when comparing him with Sainz, is that he was 17 years old. But it’s very good for him that people forget that.

      1. Jacques Villeneuve had a good season but he was paired with Hill, not Alonso.

        Worth also noting that JV also had a car that was head & shoulders above the competition, where as the Ferrari & McLaren were evenly matched in 2007.

        1. Yes, indeed, hamilton was lucky to start out in a very competitive team but it wasn’t dominant likw 1996 williams.

      2. @José Lopes da Silva And Sainz was an aged old man of 20…

    3. Forgotten what Alo did in a Minardi?

    4. And don’t forget Hamiltons personal TomTom aka RonRon who helped him a lot!

  4. Hamilton vs Alonso rivalry would have been something for the history books, forever remembered by F1 fans.

    Instead we got Hamilton vs Vettel………

  5. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    19th March 2020, 9:18

    I’m don’t think Hamilton was at his best ever level that year as he was a rookie after all. If anything, I could argue that Alonso and Button will have been stronger in 2015 for example purely based on more experience, but the car could not allow them to show that.

    I don’t think Button is better than Hamilton in general, certainly not in Hamilton’s later years, but I think Buttons’s experience teamed up with Alonso will have made them stronger than when they had a rookie Hamilton. But the circumstances of the team and other things around it make it so hard to compare.

    1. Hamilton was on the pace from the very first race. He overtook Alonso on the very first corner and finished on the podium in his first 9 races. Doesn’t sound like a rookie!

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        19th March 2020, 10:42

        Yes, but I think he made a number of pretty silly mistakes such as in china. Not taking away from the fact that it was an impressive rookie season, I’m just not convinced it was a stronger line up than the one i mentioned as Hamilton got much better in later years.

        1. With respect
          He did not make that mistake. The greatest (in their heads) team in history made the mistake by leaving him out until his tyres were down to the canvas (google the photos) that had zero to do with the chap who was at the end of the day a complete rookie with no knowledge of how his tyres looked.

          The craziest situation ever and clearly something totally politically driven.

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            19th March 2020, 13:38

            That is quite some excuse you have got there. He made it around the other corners no problem. Crashing at the stage he did (where you need to be slower and more careful than the other corners) was because he went too fast round the corner into the pits for the conditions.

            It’s like saying Maldonado locking up in the same position at China in 2015 and having to go into reverse wasn’t his fault, but the tyres being worn. Both drivers carried to much speed. It was their mistake and was stupid at that, but more so for Hamilton as he beached it. With the speed Hamilton was carrying, it would have made more sense to keep going straight rather than onto the gravel.

            I think enough people have made good enough points about the fact that the line up seemed stronger than Button and Alonso despite Hamilton being a rookie, so I think I’ll accept my comparison maybe isn’t fair.

            But this particular incident is ridiculous to not lay the blame on Hamilton.

          2. And don’t forget the way he lost his marbles in the last round at Interlagos

          3. His tyres were completely bald. Down to the canvas. Like I said look at the pictures. The slow speed robbed aero grip which is why it would drive on the track (partly) yet slid off on a slow tight corner. One that was later covered up in tarmac. It is not ‘my excuse’ it is a fact. You clearly have some odd agenda here.

          4. Completely correct DrG, those tyres where so worn they provided no grip.

            Whitmarsh kept Hamilton out despite Hamilton asking to come in many laps before. IIRC Hamilton was told he’d be sent back round if he pitted without consent.

            Whitmarsh cost Hamilton the WDC that year, basically because he wanted to give an advantage to Alonso.

    2. Button was never as fast and formidable as Hamilton was… there’s just no way he would be a serious title contender in anything other than a Brawn with Barrichello by his side.

      1. 44-14 In qualifying
        Says it all and if it was not for the three year championship Button suddenly came up with he lost – huge.
        2 years to 1 is about the best of the stats and frankly I was appalled at his 2012 early stuff. I mean one is at the front and race after race your at the back? To the extent the team falls apart trying to cover for you?
        No wonder LH walked away. Funny thing. I have raced in different series with both of them. Other racing classes but you always watch. I can assure you that LH was the most stunning fast driver I have ever seen in many many years of seeing these drivers come through. I was not alone.

      2. 2011 is never?

    3. Button has admitted in his book that he needs a perfect car to win, whereas he acknowledges both Hamilton and Alonso will get the best out of any car they’re given. Nick Fry, in his book. says Button constantly annoyed him with his on/off driving, even in the Brawn. If the car didn’t balance as Button wanted, he’d disappear down the field.

      There are at least 30 better F1 drivers than Button.

      1. Jonathan Parkin
        19th March 2020, 14:49

        But then again so does Vettel. Look at all the wins he won at Red Bull. Only one of those was off the front row and the reason for that was because Hamilton retired.

        Button has at least won races from off the top three on the grid, which Vettel never has

        1. It could also be said, whenever the car was good, Vettel would put it on front row?

          1. Yes the Toro Rosso was the best car in the grid when he won, people are clo**wns

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            19th March 2020, 20:12

            alex, Yes it really was. For those conditions. At the time Both treams had the same chassis and STR had the Ferrari engine which was specifically better for Monza. There were 3 of those Red Bull cars in the top 4 after qualifying. Even Bourdais made it to P4.

    4. @thegianthogweed whilst there does seem to be some contention about your point, I would agree that there is a rather subjective element in the whole debate.

      Many seem to be looking at driver performance as a sole metric, which is purely on speed – and, even then, sometimes in a slightly subjective manner. However, I would agree that a driver needs a wider repertoire of skills and focussing on a single trait often gives a misleading picture, as there have been examples of drivers who were certainly fast, but were unable, for various reasons, to capitalise on that.

      A rookie might bring raw speed to a team, but that ability then needs to be paired with the acquisition of technical skills to then maximise their performance – most drivers normally don’t hit their peak performance right away, but take a few years to build to that point as they acquire other skills.

      Equally, there is the issue of internal politics and whether divisions between drivers, or between drivers and their team, can hurt the team, such that their collective performance is less than the sum of their parts. A classic example might be the fight between Reutemann and Jones during the 1981 season – whilst their driver pairing was considered to be stronger than Brabham, given Rebaque was not considered to be anything particularly special, the Williams team was torn apart by arguments between Reutemann and Jones over attempts to impose team orders and ultimately ended up underperforming, with Piquet able to take the WDC that season instead.

  6. There are two most important parts of Pedro de la Rosa´s interview that are ommited.
    In Pedro´s own words:
    1 –
    “Things started to go wrong before the ‘spygate’, which was just the last straw on which Dennis unfairly blamed Alonso. It started in Monaco where Fernando won clearly and cleanly but in the last 20 laps he started having problems and Lewis started to cut time, “he says. “Fernando managed tires, he was able to do it and win races, temperatures, brakes, etc., while nobody in the team told Lewis that he was going to finish the race as they were at the time, and he always thought he could win,” he says. . “Fernando saw that McLaren did not understand what he was doing.”
    2 –
    “When the race ended, everything went wrong. Someone on the team told Fernando that Lewis should have won. That made Fernando very angry because he could have gone two seconds a lap faster. And then, as the season progressed, Lewis showed how fast he could be, improved a lot and was getting stronger, among other things because he did an adaptation masterclass of Fernando himself during the preseason and the first races. He learned to take good care of the car and tires and there it was when Fernando started to think that telemetry and data were on Hamilton’s side and at that moment, he stopped piloting as he usually did, like going to do free practice in a different way and then being very quick in qualifying. “

  7. They were definitely one of the significant ones, but again, I don’t see a reason to chase after the label “the best.” We had many exciting pairings in history and nearly every single one of them was special because of their specific relationship, we should remind ourselves of them rather than cherrypicking only one. I’m sure that Stewart – Cevert dynamic is one of the most unique and interesting in the history of sport and for me personally the best.

    1. Oh yes, the master and the padwan…….. such a shame it ended that way.

  8. Teams rarely go for hiring two top drivers for a reason.

    But when you have the fastest car, and the fastest pair, things are always interesting to watch.

    Lauda – Prost
    Mansell – Piquet
    Prost – Senna
    Ricciardo – Verstappen… was on its way to become the intra team rivalry of the twenties, but we’ll never know now ;-)

    1. Fangio and Moss?

  9. Given Hamilton and Alonso have a combined WDC count of 8 (and counting), has there ever been a driver pairing with more? Schumacher and Rosberg also had 8.

    1. Just looking at it another way, at the time HAM/ALO were teammates it was two. When Senna/Prost split up, they were at a combined four. MSC/ROS had seven, but it was all MSC.

  10. Alonso and Hamilton was a great battle, a great fight, but those two guys were too much alike to be in the same team together at the same time. I also believe that Alonso felt betrayed by Ron Dennis in the fact that Fernando obviously expected to be the number 1 driver at McLaren.
    At Renault he had enjoyed that advantage and probably expected Dennis to treat him the same way as Flavio Briatore had. Whether he was promised that or assumed that he certainly was not treated that way.
    Hamilton surprised everybody in F1. When McLaren chose him as Alonso’s team mate you had everybody from Coulthard to Villeneuve questioning their decision.
    No one thought for one minute that Lewis would take the fight to Fernando. Everyone assumed the title would be a straight fight between Alonso and
    Raikkonen. So it was a mixture of reasons why the whole thing came apart, and even without Spygate, it would have anyway.

    1. Alonso went to Ferrari and their No 1 driver. It didn’t do him any good, did it?

    2. Alonso had in his contract that he was the number one driver in the team when he signed for them, of course he wasn’t happy! McLaren caused a lot of their own issues that season.

    3. F1oSaurus (@)
      19th March 2020, 20:16

      Alonso was the no1 driver at Mclaren. Look how they went out of their way to help Alonso win in Monaco. They had to ballast Hamilton in every session to make him half a second slower just so Alonso could stay ahead.

    4. Alonso said he was worth 0.6 secs a lap, unfortunately, for him Hamilton was worth 0.7 secs. Assumptions were made by Alonso and the team that their rookie however fast would be no match for the reining double WDC who was a his peak!

  11. One interesting thing in this “who was the best ever driver pairing” discussion is the perspective of the people making the claims. For example, de la Rosa does not really go into detail does he consider Hamilton and Alonso as the best pairing ever in 2007, or simply the greatest because they have won multiple world championships? Surely, a rookie Hamilton is far inferior to the current one.

    1. Surely, a rookie Hamilton is far inferior to the current one.

      Don’t think so. Inferior seems correct to me, far inferior seems an exaggeration. When you say far better is like implying that the 2019 HAM would have dominated 2007 ALO. Impossible, no doubt. HAM got beaten by BOT few times every season, and BOT is not ALO. HAM got better, no doubt, but I think HAM’s improvement curve is one of the flatest in history. He simply was very good out of the box, therefore not much left to improve. Not the case with VER, for example.

      1. Disagree. Hamilton had a phenomenal rookie season, to be sure. But he is a much better driver now. 2020 Hamilton would crush 2007 Hamilton, imo. Just look at his time spent banging around with Massa. I don’t see current Hamilton putting his car at risk like that. He’d out maneuver him.

        If we were to put any weight behind “HAM got beaten by BOT [a] few times every season…”, which I don’t, then I would point out that Fisichella beat Alonso a couple times in 2005 and 2006, and surely Fisi is no Hamilton.

        1. Of course, agree to disagree. But… HAM also crushed BOT, therefore you’re implying that 2019 BOT would have done the same job as HAM in 2007…. which I hardly believe. Almost sure the 2007 ALO would have got the best of 2019 BOT without much drama.

          1. Indeed, I agree hamilton was and is a very good driver but there wasn’t much to improve, alonso would’ve been competitive in the same car with him even the last years before retiring (he’s a bit old now).

      2. Kostis Vassilakis
        30th April 2020, 0:04

        Bottas is very underrated tho, he comfortably beat massa 3 times in a row and was considered one of the best young talents in 2014. Also, Lewis helped Bottas massively in 2017, he was giving him setup advice etc and last year they swapped engineers, you dont see many great champions doing that. Sure, Bottas beats him on average 7 times out of 21 but still Hamilton dominates him even more in the races.

  12. “…those two guys they would have brought so many championships to McLaren…”

    I don’t think so. Since 2008 McLaren hasn’t built a championship winning car. That’s why Lewis Hamilton walked away.

  13. The common misconception that was in part created by the British media at the time is that Alonso had issues with Hamilton which in fact he never did. Alonso’s issues were with Ron Dennis, He never held any animosity towards Hamilton which is why it was always weird to me that again especially when watching English speaking broadcasts it would often be treated as if the 2 hated each other.

    It was never simply a case of Alonso been matched/beat by a rookie team mate, It was more that he started getting the impression that the team were happier when Lewis won than when he did & that Ron was more behind Lewis than he was Fernando & that this was ensuring that Lewis was getting better treatment. It was the same sort of thing you saw with Senna/Prost in ’89 where Prost became adamant that Honda were giving Senna better engines because Ayrton was more friendly with the Honda engineer’s.
    It didn’t help matters in 2007 that Fernando’s family were feeding into it by telling Fernando things like the McLaren mechanics would always celebrate more when Lewis would beat Fernando to pole with his family eventually opting to watch races from the Renault motorhome as they didn’t feel at home in the Mclaren one.

    When you look back at Mclaren’s history under Ron Dennis you do see similar things said by other drivers, I remember David Coulthard saying he felt like Ron was always closer to Hakkinen from the very first race they were team mates. The difference is that Fernando was a 2x champion who was hungry for more so some of those same things triggered a bit of paranoia which you actually sometimes see from some of the very best drivers (Hamilton himself showed signs of it over he years when he was been pushed by Rosberg).

    1. British media wasn’t going to go after their own team (McL) when they could go after a Spanish driver and a non-white driver as the sources of animosity. Especially 12 years ago.

    2. @gt-racer agreed.

      Fernando himself has come out and said exactly this, that there was no animosity with Lewis, it was with Ron and the team. PDLR also alluded to how this played out in the podcast.

      I dont understand why the UK media keeps bringing this story up…their boy won, he is the greatest ever. Alonso has been relegated to the annals of F1 history, as a over-rated driver who only won 2 World Championships, with quirky anecdotes such as 2 time Le-Mans winner* (*with no competition), Daytona 24 Hours Winner (whats that?) etc

      I’m unsure what the media is trying to get across, Hamilton’s superiority as a rookie, Fernando’s failures, or the team’s utter disgrace at managing this situation. For me, the real story should be the latter, and doesn’t get talked about enough.

  14. good read

  15. The Fangio-Moss pairing at Mercedes wasn’t too shabby either but seems to have been forgotten…


    1. @fishingelbow People only tend to remember what happened last time..

      There is a tight line if you are a rookie that has a plenty of talent but you don’t have the experience to control it all. When you have the experience you most certainly lose that edge what did you have when you were younger but on the other hand you don’t make stupid mistakes.

      To have one of both could be the best possible situation but there’s much more to it than just the pure speed.

      1. @qeki Tell Vettel that part about not making stupid mistakes when experienced ;-)

        1. @losd you got me there lol :D

  16. He is right and after them Ricciardo and Max were probably the second strongest pairing ever

    1. Opinions of course, but I don’t know where to start with that? Approx 15 wins between them (as we currently stand) and they are a better pairing than Senna & prost??? I offer you my humble disagreement.

  17. F1oSaurus (@)
    19th March 2020, 20:18

    It’s funny to remember that Alonso claimed pre-season that Hamilton was not good enough to drive at McLaren. He insisted that de la Rosa should take that No2 seat.

  18. No it wasn’t. Prost and Senna was the best ever driver pairing. With those two driving the MP4/4, probably the best F1 car ever made powered by a Honda engine, the engine manufacturer then that had invested by far the most amount of time and money in F1- all that made for an unbeatable combination. Other great pairings? Moss-Fangio, Fittipaldi-Peterson, Jones-Reutemann (maybe), Prost-Lauda, Prost-Rosberg (maybe), Mansell-Piquet, Prost-Mansell, Senna-Hakkinen, Alonso-Hamilton.

  19. When in doubt over these kind of questions, I mistrust my gut feeling and go for an objective source, and f1metrics is best.

    And f1metrics does agree with PDLR: The strongest pair I could find was Alonso (all-time 3rd) and Hamilton (7th) with a total score of 17.28 (anyway this is a bit fallacious, as they were not teammates in their highest scoring years).

    Second strongest pairing is Fangio (4th) and Moss (10th) scoring 16.63, and third Schumacher (1st) and Rosberg (10th) scoring 16.55. This last one is particularly fallacious, as Schu was well past his prime in his second F1 stint.

    Fourth is Verstappen (9th) and Ricciardo (15th) scoring 15.86, fifth Lauda (12th) and Prost (20th) scoring 15.19, and sixth is the most (in)famous pairing ever, Prost (20th) and Senna (21th), scoring 14.54. Yes, Prost and Senna had the most dominant season ever, but their McL-H was a true beast of a car.

    I may have missed some high-scoring pair but I’m pretty sure this are the top six. A few of the best drivers ever (Stewart, 2nd, Áscari, 5th, and Clark, 6th) don’t make the pairing list, as their teammates were mostly flaky. @pironitheprovocateur mentions Stewart/Cevert, but Cevert is 92nd in the list and the pair makes only 14.05 points. Another famous pairing was Piquet (36th) and Mansell (48th), making only 12.98 points.

    Could Cevert have substantially improved if he had survived his fatal crash? Maybe but he was already in his 4th F1 season and was no rookie. Here, f1metrics predicts the rest of his hypothetical career after surviving the crash. In this alternate reality model, Cevert would have won a few more races but was no WDC material (notwithstanding Stewart’s opinión). May he rest in peace.

  20. Neil (@neilosjames)
    20th March 2020, 1:15

    Maybe they could be considered among the best if it was based on the drivers Hamilton and Alonso became as they improved during their careers… but not at the level they were at in 2007. They were very good in 2007, of course, but both became far better.

  21. roberto giacometti
    20th March 2020, 2:50

    So inconsequential driver De La Rosa mutters 7 different sentences on various topics of ancient history – and they get sensationalized into 7 “new” articles.
    Wow wee. Tell us more please Pedro.

  22. Back in 2001 Michael Schumacher claimed that Fernando Alonso was going to be the best driver of the next generation of drivers coming up. Let’s not forget that Alonso was driving a Minardi at the time in his maiden season, Kimi Raikkonen was at Sauber in his first season also. I respect Schumacher’s opinion, at at time when he was at his peak and winning championship after championship. This was at a time when Mika Hakkinen would go on ‘sabbatical’ and eventual retirement. Michael was eyeing up his future competition, and it wasn’t the likes of Montoya who were his main causes for concern obviously.
    Whatever Alonso may have done, and despite what the media have claimed, he remains one of the best drivers of modern times in light of his flaws. One of the great tragedies is that he could have achieved more, but made bad decisions which ultimately cost him in the end.

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