Lewis Hamilton has dubbed a former teammate the toughest opponent of his career as he prepares for a landmark race in France on Sunday.
Hamilton, 37, will line-up for the 300th F1 Grand Prix of his career at the Circuit Paul Ricard, only the fifth driver in history to achieved the feat. He'll follow in the footsteps of Kimi Raikkonen, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, and Michael Schumacher – who shares his record haul of seven world titles.
However, it's not the German driver who the Mercedes man regards as the best he's ever faced. That honour is reserved for the man Hamilton debuted alongside at the Australian Grand Prix when at McLaren, back in March 2007.
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"I remember the task of being alongside Fernando [Alonso]. I was so young mentally," he told reporters, when asked about his toughest rival. "It is a lot of pressure to go up against a great like him, on pure pace and ability I would say it is Fernando."
At 40, the two-time world champion is still involved in the sport with Alpine, and Hamilton believes there will be more tussles to come with the Spaniard: "We had some good battles. I wish we could have more and hopefully he is going to continue to race so we can have more in the future."
The two drivers infamously shared a tempestuous relationship during that 2007 campaign, which resulted in Alonso's contract with the team being terminated prematurely. However, they have since patched up their differences, and the 2005 and 2006 champion was equally kind to his rival.
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"I don't think he has changed. He had the talent in 2007 and he still has the talent now," he said. "With the experience he has been a tremendous driver, a legend of our sport. It has always been a pleasure to share all this time with him."
Hamilton will be hoping that his milestone race will also see him continue his recent resurgence, following a nightmare start to the season. After being plagued by issues of 'porpoising' with his W13 car, he goes in off the back of podium finishes in Canada, Great Britain, and Austria.
He will however, be replaced in first practice by Nyck de Vries, a back-up driver for the Silver Arrows. Under new F1 rules, teams are mandated to give young drivers car time during practice sessions twice over the course of the season.
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