Formula One: Lewis Hamilton shocked as Fernando Alonso praises old rival
Fernando Alonso has left Lewis Hamilton “blown away” after paying the Englishman a huge compliment.
Alonso and Hamilton became bitter rivals during a turbulent year for McLaren in 2007 which resulted in the double world champion lasting only one season.
It is always been understood the duo have since endured an uneasy relationship, although over the years the wounds have healed.
Now Ferrari star Alonso has suggested Hamilton will be the man to watch during winter testing as he is “the only driver capable of winning races in a car which is not the best.”
Such a comment comes on the back of arguably Hamilton's worst year in Formula One which has been riddled with controversy.
When Alonso's remark was then put to Hamilton, the 26-year-old was initially left lost for words.
After a few seconds to reflect, Hamilton said: “I'm blown away Fernando is so positive towards me despite my season. Despite the relationship we've had, I think our friendship and the respect we have for one another, has got a lot stronger.
“I've only ever said he is one of the best drivers, if not the best driver here.
“It's nice to know I've got support from some drivers.”
For Alonso, there is a sense this weekend he will need to exorcise a few demons after what transpired last year when he went into the final round at the Yas Marina Circuit leading the championship.
Instead of winning his third title, a bungled call from Ferrari left Alonso unable to find a way past Vitaly Petrov, as he trailed home seventh behind race winner and champion Sebastian Vettel.
It means that of all the races Alonso has contested, the only one from which he has yet to collect a trophy for a podium finish is in Abu Dhabi.
“I have 72 podiums so far, so 72 trophies at home, apart from Abu Dhabi,” said Alonso.
“Hopefully this year, or in the coming years, I can put Abu Dhabi there as well.”
Despite the fact Alonso's victory in the British Grand Prix in July is Ferrari's lone success this year, he maintains the year “has not been a disaster”.
The Spaniard added: “When you race for Ferrari there are a lot of expectations.”