Lewis Hamilton has cemented himself one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time, excelling in the sport since his debut season way back in 2007.
As a rookie driver, he finished runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship by a single point, before correcting that and winning the crown a year later in 2008 in dramatic fashion at Interlagos, breaking Felipe Massa’s heart.
Since his shock move to Mercedes in 2013, many were left scratching their heads, but the Brit knew what he was doing and has won six world titles with the team and finished runner up twice.
Last season saw him go wheel-to-wheel with Max Verstappen for the entire season, with the fiery rivalry culminating in an Abu Dhabi showdown with the pair tied on points.
Ultimately, it was heartbreak for Hamilton who had the record-breaking eighth title in his pocket before Michael Masi’s controversial interpretation of the safety car rules threw up a final lap of racing to effectively gift Verstappen the title after it looked lost for the Dutchman in the final race.
The 2016 season also saw him miss out by just five points to teammate and childhood friend, Nico Rosberg. Their three-year rivalry at the Silver Arrows was so intense that their personal relationship crumbled.
Despite those two gruelling, painful seasons and losses, Hamilton hasn’t named either of them as his toughest rival in Formula One.
Instead, he has named current Alpine driver Fernando Alonso as his toughest rival which saw the pair first battle it out as McLaren teammates in Hamilton’s rookie season. He was a two-time world champion at the time so a daunting prospect for most.
They then battled it out at the front of the grid early in the 2010s, with Hamilton driving for McLaren and then Mercedes whilst the Spaniard was at Ferrari. We were treated to the pair battling it out again last season in particular when Alonso’s defence for a prolonged period of time in Hungary allowed Esteban Ocon a maiden win in Formula One and denied Hamilton.
Speaking on his rivalry with Alonso, Hamilton said: “I think it’s difficult to say who has necessarily been my strongest competitor, because every time you’re with someone you’re in a different place of your life.
“I remember the task of being alongside Fernando when I was 22, you know, I was so young mentally and of course – OK in terms of skill – but it’s a lot of pressure to go up against a great like him.
“So I would say out of pure pace, I think i would say it’s Fernando and ability. We had some good battles, I wish we could have more. Hopefully he will continue to race, and hopefully we will have more in the future.”