Sir Lewis Hamilton reckons that Fernando Alonso was the toughest competitor he has had in his career.
The Briton debuted with McLaren in 2007 alongside the Spaniard, and it quickly became apparent that the young upstart was there to put the sword to the double world champion, who had just switched from Renault after winning his second crown in 2006.
The pair won eight races between them over the course of the season, taking four apiece as they finished dead level on points at the end of the season.
However, they lost out on the title by one point to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, and the British side were disqualified from the Constructors’ Standings for their part in the “spygate” debacle.
That season also featured some incredibly tense moments between the McLaren team-mates, most notably when Alonso stopped in the pit box during qualifying to prevent Hamilton from setting another lap.
The pair created further controversy when they collided in bizarre fashion in Bahrain in 2008 when the now 40-year-old had moved back to Renault but, fast forward to 2022, the pair are now on decent terms.
The now 37-year-old was just 22 when he burst onto the scene and almost won the title in his first year, and his rivalries with Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen materialised at different stages in his career.
It is therefore tough for him to choose an outright toughest opponent but, if he had to, he would probably pick Alonso.
“It is difficult to say who has been the strongest competitor because every time you are against someone you are in a different place in your life,” said Hamilton.
“I remember being alongside Fernando when I was 22, I was so young mentally.
“There was pressure going up against a great like him, and in terms of pure pace I would say Fernando. We had good battles, I wish we could have some more.”
Hamilton and Alonso engaged in a tremendous fight in Budapest last year as the Spaniard worked hard to stop the 103-time race winners progress and ultimately ensure victory for team-mate Esteban Ocon.
The Mercedes driver would eventually get past and finish third on track, but that turned into second when Sebastian Vettel was disqualified – Carlos Sainz was promoted to the podium places as a result.