Thursday, July 21, 2022

By Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent, Le Castellet

Lewis Hamilton has been hailed as a Formula One legend by Fernando Alonso on the eve of his 300th Grand Prix.

Hamilton will bring up his triple ton at Sunday’s French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard, becoming only the sixth driver in the sport’s history to reach the landmark figure.

The Mercedes man started his career alongside Alonso at McLaren in 2007 before going on to take a record-equalling seven world championships.

Hamilton will join Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button in the exclusive 300 club.

“He has been a tremendous driver and a legend of our sport,” said two-time world champion Alonso. “It has always been a pleasure to share the grid with him.

“He had the talent in 2007, and he still has the talent now, but with the experience. Back then, no one thought someone would be able to win seven titles as Michael did, but the journey he has had has been amazing.

“Congratulations to him on reaching 300 and hopefully he will get another win soon.”

Hamilton endured a fractious relationship with Alonso who ended up quitting McLaren after just one season – the two drivers ended the year level on points.

Lewis Hamilton started his career alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren
Lewis Hamilton started his career alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren (PA Archive)

Championship triumphs against Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas followed for Hamilton, before he came unstuck against Max Verstappen in last year’s contentious and compelling title battle.

But Hamilton highlighted Alonso – now 40 and racing for midfield team Alpine – as his fiercest challenger.

“Every time you are against a driver, you are in a different place in your life,” said Hamilton. “I remember the task of being alongside Fernando when I was 22.

“I was so young mentally, and there was a pressure of going up against a great like him. But I would say, in terms of pure pace and ability, Fernando was the toughest competitor.

“We had some good battles and I wish we could have had some more. Hopefully he is going to race on so we can have more in the future.”

Alarmingly for Hamilton, no driver has gone beyond 300 appearances and won a race, while he has never been this deep into a season without standing on the top step of the podium.

“It doesn’t faze me because I’m getting towards that win,” added Hamilton, who is 99 points behind Verstappen ahead of the 12th round of the campaign.

“I do believe we’ll be able to compete, whether it be now or in five races.

“It has been more about the journey, we’ve got consistency and we’ve continued to push – no one in our team has given up.

“It’s been a really valuable lesson and experience learned for all of us. We’ve sharpened our tools in other areas so when we do get back to where we deserve to be, we’ll appreciate it that much more.”

Hamilton will be absent from opening practice on Friday with Formula E champion Nyck de Vries behind the wheel of his Mercedes instead. Teams must use rookie drivers on two occasions this season.

Comments are closed.

Contact Newsdesk: +353 59 9170100

More