Two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso has divided opinions in the paddock, suggesting Max Verstappen was Formula One’s best driver since Michael Schumacher and snubbing seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton.
Speaking to reporters, when asked if Verstappen deserved a place among the sport’s modern greats, the 42-year-old Spaniard said: “I’ve only been wheel-to-wheel with Michael, but with Michael maybe, yes.
“And for the next few years he will keep adding championships so we will compare him with Michael even closer in the future.”
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While Alonso’s omission of Hamilton raised eyebrows, but was no great surprise as the pair endured a highly-strained season as teammates at McLaren in 2007, Hamilton’s rookie year.
As Verstappen appears all but certain to claim his third straight world championship this weekend at the Qatar Grand Prix as he needs just three points, the other drivers were heaping praise on the Dutchman.
Hamilton praised his title rival for “raising the bar” this season.
“I wouldn’t rank him,” said the Mercedes driver when asked to do just that.
“I think ranking people is an opinion-based thing. But I do think he’s earned his position and he’s done an amazing job with the package that he has.
“He and the team have been phenomenal this year. Faultless. And I think they’ve raised the bar.
“As a team, we have to look at that and say ‘Okay, these are the areas that we need to develop to be able to match that and compete’.
“I do hope at some stage we can fight them and actually have them in a defending position, but they should definitely enjoy the moment because they’ve worked for it.”
Verstappen has very rarely received praise from Hamilton since their ferocious rivalry during the 2021 season when some unexpected decisions by officials at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix appeared to deprive the Briton of an eighth title in controversial fashion as Verstappen claimed victory.
When asked a similar question, Verstappen said he still wanted to achieve more in the sport.
“Michael’s achievements were incredible,” Verstappen said.
“But when he was achieving these kind of things it was seen as normal because it was an amazing driver, with an amazing team and everything came together.
“I don’t think about reaching seven. We will see year by year what happens, but I am very proud. I live in the moment — and I want to achieve more.”