Lewis Hamilton says as he’s grown older alongside Fernando Alonso the respect and positive rivalry between the two drivers has flourished and he’ll miss competing against the two-time Formula 1 world champion.

The pair infamously became the centre of the inner McLaren conflict when Hamilton as an F1 rookie took on defending world champion Alonso on his maiden season at the team in 2007.

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Following a turbulent period which saw Alonso leave after one year, the pair gradually repaired their relationship as F1 rivals and with the Spanish driver set to retire from the sport after the 2018 finale in Abu Dhabi this weeekend Hamilton says he’ll miss his former teammate.

“We’ve had good times and bad times. We’ve grown. He was obviously here before I was and achieved incredible things before I got here and also partly while I was here. It’s been a privilege to be in an era where he was racing,” Hamilton said. “Will I miss him? Yeah, I think the sport will miss him.

“I definitely think naturally, we’re older, old men now and the respect between us, I’d like to think, is higher than it’s ever been and I don’t think that’s ever going to change.

“I hope that Fernando’s at least around, or at least I get to see him in the future, as someone I’ve always respected highly as a driver, as I’ve always commented on, and so, I really do wish him all the best for his future endeavours.”

Hamilton also reiterated he never felt he had a direct conflict with Alonso in 2007 when they were fighting for the F1 world title together at McLaren but the breakdown was due to “how that was managed”.

“I don’t feel like I ever had a personal issue with Fernando,” he expalined. “I think it was more how the team was run, or the situation we were put in, and how that was managed.

“I don’t think we ever necessarily had an issue between us, except we were trying to beat each other and murder each other’s laps on the track.

“Outside, we used to play NBA 2K, or whatever it was, together every now and then. It was always really quite harmonious outside.”

Alonso will retire from F1 at the end of this season to focus on becoming the second-ever driver in history to capture the Triple Crown – winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 Hours and the Indianapolis 500 – having secured the second leg of the feat earlier this year with Toyota at Le Mans.

The Spaniard remains part of the McLaren fold for 2019 having gained his Indy 500 return with the Woking-based squad’s own entry into the iconic US race.