Lewis Hamilton snubs Max Verstappen as he picks his toughest rival in F1 with seven-time world champion set for 300th GP
LEWIS HAMILTON will notch up his 300th F1 GP this weekend in France – and says his toughest opponent was his first – Fernando Alonso.
The two were team-mates at McLaren in 2007 but that year ended in a bitter bust-up between the two, with the Spaniard leaving the team after only one season.
Alonso, 40, is one of five others who have hit the 300 landmark along with Kimi Raikkonen, Rubens Barrichello, Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button.
Hamilton, 37, will become the sixth and says while Alonso remains his most formidable opponent, his first GP in Melbourne in 2007 when he was 22, is his most memorable.
He said: “The whole realisation of reaching your dream is a very, very surreal experience. It is always going to be your first, there’s only one first.
“Just getting to that first Grand Prix in 2007, the amount of sleepless nights as a family all of us had had not knowing if we would reach our dream but never giving up nonetheless and being there, that will probably be the real highlight.”
Hamilton has since gone on to win a record-equalling seven world championships, and it could have been eight had he not been pipped in controversial circumstances by his latest bitter rival Max Verstappen.
But when asked by SunSport who his most fierce opponent was, Hamilton was in no doubt.
He added: “I remember the task of being alongside Fernando. I was so young mentally.
“It is a lot of pressure to go up against a great like him, on pure pace and ability I would say it is Fernando.
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“We had some good battles. I wish we could have more and hopefully he is going to continue to race so we can have more in the future.”
Alonso, who made his debut in 2001 and won the title in 2005 and 2006, paid tribute to Hamilton.
Alonso said: “I don’t think he has changed. 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. It has always been a pleasure to share all this time with him.”
No driver has gone on to win a race since eclipsing the 300 mark but Hamilton is confident of ending that trend with a victory this season.
Hamilton has won a race in all of his previous 15 years in the sport and is determined to get at least one on the board.