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'Hamilton among F1's greatest drivers'

October 19, 2018 15:36 IST

Alonso hails Hamilton as one of the F1 greats

Lewis Hamilton

IMAGE: Formula One World Champion, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton speaks ahead of the United States Grand Prix. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Lewis Hamilton's former team mate Fernando Alonso hailed the Briton as a Formula One great on Thursday and said he was happy to see him stand on the brink of a fifth world championship.

The pair were fractious team mates at McLaren in Hamilton's 2007 debut season, with the youngster ending that campaign as runner-up and ahead of the double world champion Spaniard who then left.

 

"I'm happy for him because he showed the talent from day one," Alonso told reporters at the US Grand Prix where Hamilton can seal the title if he scores eight points more than Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

"He was able to win races when the car was there to win it but he was able to win races in some of the seasons when the car was not in the top of the form, like 2009," he said.

"It's impressive -- and now it's time to enjoy for him, so I'm happy," added the Spaniard, who is bowing out of Formula One at the end of the year.

Hamilton will stand level with the late, great Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio if -- as seems inevitable -- he takes a fifth crown and becomes only the third driver to reach that mark. Germany's Michael Schumacher holds the record of seven.

Asked to list his top five world champions, Alonso -- regarded as one of the best of his era -- modestly declined to mention himself.

"Probably Michael, Fangio, (Ayrton) Senna, (Alain) Prost, Lewis, probably this will be the top five, probably, that come to my mind," he said.

"But it's difficult to compare different times and different ways to win those championships.

"Lewis winning five now and being the same as Fangio...it's a great achievement and if one had to do that in our generation, I'm happy that it's Lewis because he showed the talent and he showed the commitment."

Hamilton, who has won four races in a row and six of the last seven, refused to take anything for granted even if he is now 67 points clear of Vettel with four races -- worth a total 100 points -- remaining.

"As a team, none of us are saying how cool it would be if it happened this weekend or the next, we're not focussing on ifs. We're focussing on making sure that we deliver," he said.

"We can just never be complacent in life, and in a Championship as intense as this. We expect Ferrari to punch back hard here this weekend, so we can't be relaxed in any way, shape or form."

Hamilton says chasing Schumacher's record was never the plan

Lewis Hamilton will edge closer to Michael Schumacher's all-time record if he wins a fifth Formula One world title this weekend in Austin, but he said on Wednesday that chasing the German great was never part of his plan.

The Mercedes driver will move to within two of Schumacher's all-time mark of seven championships if he scores eight points more than his Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel in Austin on Sunday.

Yet Hamilton said that he realised his lifelong ambition in 2015 when he equalled the tally of his boyhood idol Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian triple champion who died in 1994, and that chasing Schumacher's mark was never his aim.

"Honestly that has never been my goal. I started out with the goal to match Ayrton Senna or to equalise with Ayrton Senna who is my ... who's the guy that I aspire to be like," Hamilton said.

"And I equalled him two years ago. So since then it's kind of been going into unknown territory."

"So I mean Michael's stats are incredible and still quite a long way away, but I'm here for some time still, so I'm just going to keep working hard and keep trying to do what I do and what I love and enjoy it and we'll see where it takes us."

Hamilton is 67 points clear of Vettel with three races and a maximum 75 points remaining after Texas, and will fancy his chances of sewing up the title having won five of the past six races at the Circuit of the Americas -- including the last four.

Yet with so much riding on the weekend, Hamilton said now is not the time to make changes to his approach.

"The approach that I've had up until now has worked very well," said Hamilton. "So we naturally want to win this weekend. So diligence and going through the same steps in terms of getting the car to where it needs to be through the weekend, I feel naturally relaxed and I know what I'm going to do."

Hamilton has already won nine races so far this season and looks likely to end the year in double figures, which is no mean feat considering he feels this year has been tougher than any he has experienced before.

"This year has been the most intensive, the cars the faster, the requirement on the driver's side physically and mentally is on another level," said Hamilton.

"We've been fighting another team who have had the upper hand for a long part of the season. So collectively as a team we've had to go above and beyond to deliver more than them."

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