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Fernando Alonso Compares His Greatest Ever Formula 1 Rivals

Fernando Alonso Compares His Greatest Ever Formula 1 Rivals
By Eoin Harrington

Despite being a double world champion, F1 driver Fernando Alonso and his career poses one of sport's great "what if" questions. He missed out on further championships by a point in 2007, five points in 2010, and three in 2012. Just nine points the difference between being a two-time world champion and a five-time world champion.

He spoke to the Formula 1 podcast Beyond the Grid this week, and gave a fascinating insight into the men who denied him those championships - and spoke fondly of his greatest rival, Michael Schumacher.

'You get what you deserve' - Fernando Alonso on bittersweet F1 career

40-year-old Fernando Alonso made his return to F1 this season with Alpine, after a two-year hiatus. He returned to the podium for the first time in seven years at the last race in Qatar.

Alonso was the world champion in 2005 and 2006, but his career ever since has been marked by wrong turns and bad luck. He joined McLaren in 2007 just as they placed their faith in Lewis Hamilton, left for Ferrari just as their luck turned bad, and then made the same mistake when he returned to McLaren in 2015.

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He spoke on the F1 podcast this week and, when asked whether he felt his bad luck meant he deserved more than the two championships to his name, he was surprisingly pensive.

No, I don't think so. You get what you deserve. There are a couple of examples that maybe you could say something is unfair, in the way that some people win championships or win races that...maybe there are better people on the grid.

But you will never know that, we are all in different cars.

And vice versa, there are many very talented drivers who didn't even get to Formula 1, and that is unfair.

For the latest generation of Formula 1 fans, Alonso may seem like an ageing veteran capable of flashes of brilliance but fans who watched the sport at the turn of the century will remember him as the man who toppled the dynasty of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari in the mid-2000s.

Alonso spoke fondly of Schumacher on the podcast, and said that he was not only his greatest ever rival, but also his greatest mentor.

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The value of the 2006 championship and how we felt was fantastic because we were racing against the legend - Michael and Ferrari. Michael decided to stop racing in Monza [in 2006] and from that moment it was a very intense battle.

Even in Brazil we fought for the championship and before starting the race we were shaking hands with Michael and wishing him the best of luck in the next chapter in life, but we were still racing for the championship, so there were mixed emotions there. That was a special time.

Michael was, for me, the biggest rival that I consider in my career. He was like a teacher in many ways. I was young, coming into Formula 1 and found myself fighting for a championship that I maybe was not ready for. I had alongside me Michael with all his knowledge and his approach - never giving up, always performing something special.

Schumacher did, until last year, stand alone at the top of Formula 1's record tables for most wins and most championships. He has since been joined on seven in the latter, and surpassed in the former by Lewis Hamilton, who is locked in a gripping title battle with Max Verstappen for title number eight this season.

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were infamously not on the best terms during their time together at McLaren in 2007, but that hasn't soured Alonso's image of the Brit. He said on Beyond the Grid:

I think with Lewis, we didn't have the competition that I was looking for. It's true that in 2007 we shared a team and that is, in general, the biggest fight you can have. In 2007 we both were not ready.

We finished with the same points in the championship which you could see as an even fight, but I think we both could have done better.

In the following years, I had a better package at Ferrari than him, so we didn't fight. And now that he's switched to Mercedes he has a better package so we don't really get to fight together. That's a missing point in my career, but he is obviously a legend of the sport.

Like Michael, he pushes you to the limit because if you want to beat Lewis you have to perform at your best.

Perhaps the rival who fans will be most eager to hear Fernando Alonso speak about is four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. Alonso and Vettel fought one of the greatest title contests in history in 2012, and Vettel also pipped the Spaniard to the 2010 world championship.

Alonso has gone on record in the past claiming that much of Vettel's 2012 win was down to the strength of his car compared to the Ferrari. On this week's podcast, he appeared to back down, and give credit to just how consistent and hard-to-beat Vettel was in those fights.

The other one, of course, is Sebastian. Obviously we didn't have the same package to compete wheel-to-wheel but we still fought for a few championships until the last race.

On those championships - 2010 and 2012 - you have to perform at your best if you want to beat a slightly superior Red Bull package that I think they had in that moment.

But they had issues, some reliability...races that they didn't finish, and we still fight for the championship and we have to nail every single weekend to be in that position.

They are all a part of my career and I respect them a lot

Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, and Michael Schumacher will all go down in Formula 1 history as some of the very best drivers ever to have graced the sport.

To hear Alonso speak so fondly of those he has fought against throughout his career is a real treat for fans of the sport - we can only hope that we might see him stand on a podium with Hamilton and Vettel once more before they retire.

SEE ALSO: Who Is Guanyu Zhou? Introducing Formula 1's New Chinese Driver

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