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.
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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