The Spaniard, who returned to Formula One this season after a two-year hiatus, says Hamilton was worthy of extra praise for consistently outperforming his rivals even as other teams have caught up with Mercedes.
‘Does he have the best car? Yes. But, with the best car you need to deliver every weekend, whether it’s raining or dry,’ Alonso said in an interview with Marca.
Lewis Hamilton won a seventh title last year but Fernando Alonso believes he is underrated
Alonso said Hamilton deserved credit for staying consistent after Mercedes’ powers waned
‘You have to perform when Red Bull have a good weekend and then also when they’re at a track where they’re slower. You can only do that if you’re performing at the top level and I don’t know if what he’s doing is being valued enough.’
Alonso and Hamilton were involved in one of the fiercest rivalries in the sport’s history in the 2007 season, when the double world champion suspected that his new upstart team mate was getting preferential treatment from McLaren, leading to a furious row between Alonso and team director Ron Dennis.
The animosity spilled over at the Hungarian Grand Prix when Alonso blocked his team mate in the pits.
Alonso left McLaren later that year to join Ferrari and the rivalry took an even uglier turn when Spanish fans appeared to racially abuse Hamilton at a test event in 2008 and again at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2009.
The pair have long since put their differences aside, however, and Alonso went the extra-mile in praising his old foe.
‘I know he is appreciated, but I give him a lot of credit because Mercedes don’t have the dominance of three or four years ago, when they won quite easily,’ he added.
‘Others are closer, but it doesn’t seem to affect him. He always gives 100 percent, so you have to congratulate him.’
Hamilton joined Alonso at McLaren for the 2007 season but the relationship soon turner sour
Hamilton won his first world championship in 2008, the year after Alonso left McLaren
Asked whether the only way to beat the reigning champion was to have ‘the perfect race with the perfect team and even perfect luck’, Alonso added: ‘Yes. It is as you say.
‘It seems he is in an ideal moment in terms of his driving and his role in the team and even with a bit of luck because he had some in Imola (when Hamilton came second in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last month). So you need to value what he is doing.’
Alonso returned to Formula One this year but has had to contend with injuries to his mouth and shoulder after he was hit by a car while riding his bike in February.
He said he had almost fully recovered from the collision, which led to him having surgery on his jaw.
‘It’s going well. It’s not something I like to comment on or that has an impact on races, but I do have some pain in my mouth from changes in temperature or pressure. You just change the way you eat or you have to prepare your food in a certain way,’ he said.
‘I also took a hit on my shoulder and my knee. I didn’t need surgery but I did have to do some rehabilitation…this is the first week that I’ve not had any pain when I’ve not been doing anything.
‘Until now it has been hurting but it hasn’t stopped me from braking hard or turning left or right, so I don’t comment on it because it doesn’t affect my driving. It does affect your normal life, though, but I’m almost 100 percent again.’
Hamilton clinched his fourth consecutive title at the Turkish Grand Prix in November 2020
Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher as the most decorated driver ever last year