Formula 1: Fernando Alonso’s Greatest Rivals

They say that one’s true measure of greatness is the greatness of one’s competition. In the history of Formula 1, such has been the case with most of the drivers who fall in the ‘all time great category’. Juan Manuel Fangio had Stirling Moss, Niki Lauda had James Hunt, Ayrton Senna had Alain Prost and in the early part of his career, Michael Schumacher had Mika Hakkinen.  Even outside of the world of Formula 1, Wilt Chamberlain had Bill Russell, Larry Bird had Magic Johnson, Tom Brady had Peyton Manning, Tim Duncan had Kevin Garnett, LeBron James has Kevin Durant, Cristiano Ronaldo has Lionel Messi, and Roger Federer has Rafael Nadal.
Can you see a trend here? All of these great sportspersons had fantastic rivals. Their rivalries helped them push each other beyond their limits and achieve even higher levels of success. Great people need great rivals for constant motivation. ‘Whatever happens, I must beat him/her’ is the mentality which makes the great ones go the extra mile when it comes to facing their rivals.
At different points of his illustrious career, Fernando Alonso battled against three drivers so accomplished that they hold 16 Formula 1 World Championships between themselves. They are Michael Schumacher (7 titles), Lewis Hamilton (5 titles) and Sebastian Vettel (4 titles).
During his double world championship winning run with the Renault F1 team, Alonso battled Michael Schumacher during every race weekend. Schumacher had been the most dominating force in Formula 1 history until that point and Alonso was the driver who loosened Schumacher’s stranglehold over the Driver’s Championship.
Then Alonso joined the McLaren-Mercedes team with supremely talented rookie Lewis Hamilton. However, no team is big enough to accommodate, sustain and nurture such titanic levels of talent simultaneously. He left the team after just one conflict filled season for a second stint with Renault F1.
After failing to be competitive with the Renault team, he joined Ferrari and went on to have two legendary championship showdowns with Red Bull Racing‘s Sebastian Vettel. Vettel triumphed on both occasions (on the way to four straight titles), but many fans and analysts alike believed that it was Alonso who had been able to get more out of his vastly inferior car.
On the eve of the final race of his career, the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Alonso was asked about his opinion on who his greatest rival was. This was his response: “If I have to say who my greatest rival was, it will be Michael. When I was go-karting, Michael was winning. When I was in the junior categories, Michael was winning. When I got to Formula One, Michael was dominating. Then, I found myself fighting wheel-to-wheel with him. Those battles were definitely special, and emotional.”

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