2010 may still be less than ten days old, and the new F1 season more than two months away, but the mind games have already begun in earnest – with Lewis Hamilton seeking to remind former McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Fernando Alonso that not only did he beat him as a rookie in the top flight three years ago, he fairly 'blew him away'.
Whilst the pair ended the 2007 campaign tied on points in equal-second position in the drivers' table – agonisingly just a single marker behind world champion Kimi Raikkonen – that was widely-viewed by observers as victory for Hamilton and defeat for Alonso, given the fact that they had headed into the year respectively as a debutant and a two-time title-winner at the highest level.
What's more, after falling out spectacularly both with his team-mate and even more bitterly with team principal Ron Dennis, the Spaniard cut short his three-year deal with the Woking-based outfit two years early come season's end to return to his previous employer, Renault.
Due to car discrepancies, their paths have crossed infrequently since, but are likely to do so rather more in 2010, with Hamilton still firmly ensconced at McLaren and Alonso having jumped ship from Renault to join inarguably the most famous and mythical team in the sport, Ferrari – and the 2008 world champion is determined that he will again have the upper hand.
“I definitely didn't blame myself for the year that I missed out,” the Stevenage-born ace reflected in an interview with McLaren team sponsor Johnnie Walker. “[It was] my first season in Formula 1, alongside a world champion – a double world champion – and I blew him away. I beat him.
“No-one has ever come into their first year and been at the front, let alone beat a world champion, beat the mentality and the strength that he would have had and his experience in Formula 1 already up to that point. I'm very proud that I had the experience of leading the world championship for most of the year, and it's sickening, for sure, to think we lost it in the last couple of races.”
This time around, of course, Hamilton and Alonso will have more than just each other to contend with, with respective team-mates Jenson Button and Felipe Massa, Mercedes Grand Prix countrymen Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg and Red Bull Racing duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber all expected to be in the fight in what F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone tips to be 'a jaw-dropping season' [see separate story – click here