Fernando Alonso takes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton as Brit welcomed to F1 midfield

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Fernando Alonso has welcomed Lewis Hamilton to the F1 midfield while claiming a competitive car is the key ingredient behind every great driver. The 40-year-old Spanish veteran finds himself way down in 16th in the standings this season after collecting just two points with Alpine.

Gone are Alonso’s glory days, when he secured back-to-back Drivers’ Championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006.

Now Alonso finds himself towards the back of the back and as one of F1’s most-experienced drivers, he is all too aware that a faultless car is imperative to success.

Reflecting on Hamilton’s underwhelming campaign, the Alpine man appeared to suggest that the seven-time world champion’s success derived from the cars he’s been driving, as opposed to his quality behind the wheel – which he claims has remained the same throughout.

“This is the nature of the sport,” Alonso told BBC Sport. “Sometimes you have a better car, sometimes you have not such a good car and you still need to fight and make some progress.

“This year we see that the driver is very important in F1 but not crucial.

“Lewis is driving as good as he has been the last eight years. He was dominating the sport and breaking all the records and 100-and-something pole positions.

“And now he is doing a mega lap – as he said in Australia or somewhere like that – and he is one second behind. So, yeah – welcome.”

Alonso feels he can relate to Hamilton’s current situation due to his mini-demise post-2006, when he secured his second World Championship.

At the time, Alonso was dominating the grid and even keeping Michael Schumacher at bay with Renault.

But the tide soon turned as Alonso’s stock deteriorated. He claims the perception is only ever that the driver is at fault…

“This is F1,” Alonso adds. “It is not going to be a fair sport in terms of numbers. This is a team sport more than anything and we tend to forget this, especially when we have success. We are so happy for what we are achieving that even if we try to share with the team, all the headlines are for the driver.

“It happened to me when I won the two championships [in 2005 and 2006 with Renault]. I was beating Michael Schumacher. This was a big topic, but my car was more reliable at that time and had very good performance and you cannot praise enough that package because the headlines will still be the driver. And with Lewis it’s the same.

“To have more than 100 pole positions in F1 is something unthinkable. You need to have the best car and package for many, many years.

“We were doing magic laps sometimes and we were P15, and how do you explain that to people? It will be impossible.

“He deserves everything he’s achieved in the past but this year is a good reminder that in all those records and numbers there is a big part on what you have in your hands as a package in the car.”

Hamilton has already conceded that his chances of retaining the title are all but over.

The Brit is a staggering 68 points behind leader Charles Leclerc as Mercedes desperately try to improve his car.

There was also a new low for Hamilton recently at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, when he was lapped by rival Max Verstappen.

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