Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were teammates at McLaren in 2007
Fernando Alonso says his relationship with Lewis Hamilton is “colder” than before – claiming the seven-time world champion’s lifestyle separates him from the rest of the Formula One grid.
The Spaniard also predicted that Hamilton’s ferocious title battle with Max Verstappen will go to the wire in Abu Dhabi and said George Russell is set to provide his British compatriot with a stiffer challenge than Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes next term.
Alonso, 40, returned to F1 this season with Alpine following a 24-month sabbatical. Alonso won successive championships at Renault in 2005 and 2006 before teaming up with rookie Hamilton at McLaren the following year.
However, Alonso’s time alongside Hamilton lasted just one season following an explosive campaign in which they fought for the title.
McLaren were also fined 100milllion US Dollars and disqualified from the constructors’ championship after they were adjudged to have benefitted from secretive Ferrari technical information in the Spygate row.
Speaking about his relationship with Hamilton, Alonso said: “We talked in 2008, 2010 and 2011 and we were closer than ever in those years because we understood that in 2007 we were not very well managed by our bosses.
“Then we were both very young and very competitive and we needed some kind of guidance and we didn’t get it. It was an easy conclusion to make of the 2007 season, and we respected each other a lot and understood each other a lot, too.
“Now we have this respectful relationship, but maybe it is colder than it used to be. We have different opinions on different things. Lewis has a different lifestyle to many of us and that separates us.”
Hamilton and Verstappen will renew their title battle at Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix. Hamilton trails by 14 points following his superb victory in Brazil last weekend.
Verstappen is also facing an investigation after Mercedes called on the stewards to examine footage from the Interlagos race which appears to show the Red Bull driver running Hamilton off the road.
“It is good for the sport in general,” added Alonso of the best title tussle of recent memory. “Everybody loves a real fight, not an artificial fight or one between team-mates.
“Some races have been strong for Mercedes and some have been strong for Red Bull, but the fight should go on until Abu Dhabi and that is exactly what the sport should be.”
Alonso will become the grid’s most-capped driver when Kimi Raikkonen hangs up his crash helmet at the end of the year.
Sunday’s race will be the 331st of his career, with Hamilton next on the list – albeit 45 grands prix behind – but Alonso is not surprised by Hamilton’s longevity.
“No,” says Alonso. “In Formula One you are always motivated. If you win the championship, the next year you completely reset, start from zero and you will never get tired of success so I don’t think that is a strength for Lewis.
“Lewis has so many strengths but it is not impressive to keep winning – that is quite easy.”
Hamilton will face another stern examination of his credentials when Russell, 23, replaces Bottas at Mercedes.
During his time away, Alonso hailed the Williams man as the driver who impressed him the most.
And when they traded crash helmets in Monaco, Alonso wrote on Russell’s lid: “George, you rock. Future world champion.”
Alonso added: “In those two years when I watched the races, what George achieved with Williams – even if we was not in the headlights – was very impressive. But in terms of beating Lewis, I don’t know how it will work.
“Even if George has been impressive, Lewis is the legend, a great champion and it is never going to be easy to beat him. It doesn’t matter how talented you are.
“For sure, it will be closer than it has been with Valtteri, but Lewis will be the main preference in the early part of the championship for Mercedes, no doubt.”
Alonso is 10th in the standings but hopes next season’s huge overhaul in regulations will allow him to add to his 32 wins and two titles.
The sport is also gaining a new fan base, thanks in part to Netflix’s Drive to Survive series.
But Alonso concluded: “I don’t have Netflix and I have never watched it. I know it is quite popular for the young generation, and women, and a lot of fans that were not into Formula One that are now.
“With the younger generation of drivers and the digital era, (F1’s owners’) Liberty Media are doing a very good job and popularity is increasing. We are coming back to a strong moment for the sport.”
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