Fernando Alonso has named the two F1 drivers who have impressed him most – and his former rival and team-mate Lewis Hamilton isn’t one of them. Alonso, 40, returned to the sport last season after a two-year exile, joining French team Alpine.
After a difficult start, Alonso was 10th in the drivers’ championship with 81 points, and notched a first podium place for seven years in Qatar – finishing behind Hamilton and Max Verstappen having briefly in the early stages.
Team-mate Esteban Ocon was just seven points further back as the pair led their team to a fifth placed finish in the Constructors’ table, and the Spaniard has already voiced expectations of both being more competitive in 2022.
Despite leaving McLaren in 2018, the two-time world champion insists he kept a close eye on the action, and in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS, was asked who has caught his attention most in the past three years.
“I said at the beginning of the championship, before it started, in Bahrain, that the drivers who impressed me the most when I was at home watching on TV were George [Russell], about the performance at Williams, and Max [Verstappen],” he said.
“Those were the two guys for whom I was turning on the television. They were giving something extra”, he said. Indeed, Alonso has lavished praise on Verstappen since the Dutchman’s dramatic title win, and could conceivably empathise with Russell given he was in a Williams car incapable of helping him challenge the front-runners.
That will change this year however, with the 23-year-old having joined Mercedes to form a mouth-watering partnership with Hamilton – providing the seven-time world champion continues in the sport amidst rumours of retirement.
Alonso also referenced the displays of Daniel Ricciardo in 2019 and 2020, who drove for Renault – the team with which Alonso won his two titles in 2006 and 2007 before rejoining last year under the rebrand of Alpine.
“Daniel (Ricciardo) was also there. Because I was in the Renault and that car interested me a lot last year. Now you know first-hand how the Enstone factory has evolved.” Despite him winning four of the last five championships however, there was no mention of Hamilton, 37.
Him and Alonso famously endured a tempestuous year together during the British driver’s inaugural season at McLaren back in 2007, with relations so bad that the Spanish icon had his contract terminated early at the end of the campaign.
The two have since made up following the bitter fallout though, with Alonso recently sympathising with Hamilton over the controversial manner in which he lost out on the title in Abu Dhabi.
He may however, note next season’s developments at the Silver Arrows with interest, with Russell hoping to challenge his partner in the same manner that Nico Rosberg, whose relationship with Hamilton also turned sour, did so in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons.
Alonso meanwhile, has pledged to be “100%” ready for the 2022 campaign despite recently undergoing a second bout of surgery following a cycling accident last February.