Former F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has revealed the names of the three drivers he believes to be his greatest rivals on the grand prix grid – and McLaren-Mercedes team-mate and fellow title-winner Jenson Button is not amongst them.
When asked by Spanish newspaper El Pais
who he rates as the most talented competitors currently in the top flight – aside from himself – Hamilton listed Mercedes Grand Prix adversary and former karting sparring-partner Nico Rosberg, defending F1 World Champion and early-season runaway pace-setter Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, with whom he fell out so spectacularly when the pair were teamed up together at McLaren back in 2007, the British star's maiden campaign at the highest level.
“We all believe we are the best, and that's what you have to do, unless you like to finish second,” the 26-year-old underlined. “[The best] are Alonso, Vettel and Rosberg, who I've known since I was 13. He (Rosberg) is about to burst through and he will at any time. Sebastian is in a great period with Red Bull and has a lot of confidence.
“Fernando is very talented and is fully supported by his team; the whole team supports and follows him. It is he who leads Ferrari. I'm not saying it's good or bad, it's just the route they have chosen.”
If Hamilton describes Alonso's situation at Maranello as unique, then Button reckons there are only limited parallels to draw between Vettel's meteoric early defence of his hard-fought drivers' crown in 2011 and his own flying start to triumph in six of the opening seven races in 2009 with Brawn GP.
“We had no money,” the 31-year-old told f1today.nl
. “We had a good car at the start of the season but could not develop it. Red Bull can keep it up.”
Indeed, history weighs heavily in the young German's favour on the statistics front, with every other driver to have emerged victorious in five of the first six grands prix during a season as he has done in 2011 – Button in 2009, Michael Schumacher in 1994, 2002 and 2004, Nigel Mansell in 1992, Sir Jackie Stewart in 1969 and the late Jim Clark in 1965 – having gone on to lift the drivers' laurels that year.
“He is in great form in a great car and with a great team behind him,” mused former Benetton, McLaren and Williams ace Alex Wurz in an interview with Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung
. “Only abnormal things can stop him now; the title for him is at-hand.”