Fernando Alonso has confessed that he is 'missing' the close competition he enjoyed with Lewis Hamilton when the duo were paired alongside each other at McLaren-Mercedes back in 2007 – whilst contending that fellow Briton Jenson Button fully deserves the current success he is reaping in Formula 1.
Alonso and Hamilton competed as team-mates for just one season, with the former's fractious relationship with then team principal Ron Dennis seeing the Spaniard jump ship at the end of the campaign, two years before his three-year contract with the Woking-based outfit was due to expire.
Along the way, though, he and Hamilton battled quite literally tooth-and-nail, wheel-to-wheel and on occasion even sidepod-to-sidepod in their internecine tussle for supremacy, with the latter ultimately narrowly coming out on top, but the pair's in-fighting arguably costing them drivers' glory as Ferrari rival Kimi Raikkonen nicked the crown from underneath both of their noses in a nail-biting Brazilian Grand Prix finale at Interlagos.
He may have come off second-best in the comparison – and up against a rookie at that – and with his reputation somewhat tarnished, but Alonso has admitted that he misses the way the two had used to push each other to the absolute limit, with current under-fire Renault team-mate Nelsinho Piquet rarely giving him any similar cause for concern.
Ironically, it is now Hamilton who is fighting to rebuild his own battered reputation in the wake of the hugely damaging Melbourne 'lies' scandal for which McLaren was lucky to escape any serious punishment – but rebuild it he will, Alonso contends.
“I've always said the same thing,” underlined the 27-year-old Oviedo native. “I was a season at McLaren and I had no real problems with Lewis; we had good competition, which helped each other to find our limits. I can say that maybe I am missing that competition in a way because, as I said, it was quite fun to really push and find new limits from ourselves. The problems I had there were with the big bosses and the philosophy of the team, so I decided to move on from that period of my career.
“Lewis has always been a great driver, a great champion, fighting for the world championship in his first season in Formula 1 [and] winning in the second season, so I think to really help the reputation or whatever has been damaged will be very easy if he keeps winning. He will make people happy – his supporters – and that's a very important thing, doing our job. The maximum we can do is drive the car, win races [and] win championships. This is the best thing you can do.”
The driver inarguably doing 'the best' at the present juncture in the top flight is Brawn GP star Button, who after a number of years in the doldrums and at the wrong end of the grid in a string of uncompetitive Hondas now finally has in the Mercedes-powered BGP 001 a machine at his disposal worthy of his unquestionable talent. He shouldn't get too
comfortable in his new-found position of superiority, though, Alonso hints...
“I think the championship is the same as last year or the last ten years,” claimed the 21-time grand prix-winner. “I don't think Jenson was the worst driver last year when he was fighting for the bottom positions, because he'd been quite competitive throughout his career and in 2004 he was always fighting for podium finishes, finishing third in the world championship – he has always been competitive. This year, finally, he has the right car and he's proving that he's also able to fight for race wins and championships. I'm happy for him.