Former McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa says the pairing of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren was “possibly the strongest there’s ever been”.
The Spanish driver was a test driver at McLaren when the team paired up rookie Lewis Hamilton with the reigning F1 champion Fernando Alonso in 2007. De la Rosa believes the pairing was stronger than that of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost from two decades earlier. However the relationship between the two drivers quickly deteriorated as the season progressed.
“I was surprised how it all exploded,” De la Rosa said.
“If we look back, that driver pairing is possibly the strongest there’s ever been. Ever. It’s nothing against Senna/Prost, they’re my heroes, forever heroes, but that level – Fernando/Lewis – was amazing.
“I remember looking at their data and thinking, ‘these guys are from a different planet’. And still, I was not expecting for the relationship to explode. It was a shame.
“Because those guys would have brought so many championships to McLaren.
“They always respected each other massively at the track because they knew how good the other was, although they never said it publicly, they had a lot of respect for each other.
“There was nothing wrong ever done at the racetrack between them. It was always a strong fight but fair. There was no pushing, breaking the front wing or nothing.
“There was just… two gladiators fighting bravely at the racetrack so I have no bad memories about that. Both were massively fast, talented, and then I think Lewis learned a lot from Fernando that year.
“He [Alonso] did a masterclass of how to be consistent in the race and how to take care of the car, not only the tyres, and that’s also when Fernando began to feel the telemetry, the data was working in Lewis’s favour. And he started not driving as he should in free practice, and suddenly in qualifying he was very fast.
“There was a lot of games playing between these two super gladiators,” concluded De la Rosa.