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Lewis Hamilton

Former teammate reveals why Hamilton is so difficult to beat

Lewis Hamilton's former McLaren teammate, Heikki Kovalainen, believes Nico Rosberg "would have been dead" if he had to go through another season alongside the British driver.

To news overview © Daimler

Heikki Kovalainen has shed some light on how difficult it can be for a driver to be teammates with Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time World Champion.

The Finn lined up alongside Hamilton at McLaren in 2008 and 2009, and was practically anonymous as Hamilton claimed his maiden Drivers' title in their first year as teammates.

With Kovalainen's F1 career irreparably damaged by his two years alongside Hamilton, he's explained why it's so difficult to keep up with the performance level of a driver who has since matched or beaten almost all records within the sport.

What is it like to be Hamilton's teammate?

"Occasionally I could match him but, over the full season, I had to stretch every session to match him," Kovalainen told the UK's talkSPORT.

"You can only do so much stretching, and then you run out of energy and that was the case with me. I didn't have enough margin in my capacity to do the times and the races that he did, so it was not easy.

"His level of performance is so high that, even for super talents like Max [Verstappen], it requires a lot of effort, a lot of focus, a lot of energy, so it's not going to be easy – not everyone can handle that, it's as simple as that."

Hamilton's former teammate, Nico Rosberg, retired from Formula 1 shortly after beating Hamilton to the 2016 title at the end of an acrimonious year-long title fight, and Kovalainen said he fully understood Rosberg's position.

"I think Rosberg had to use all the tools from his toolbox to be able to beat Lewis and that nearly killed him," Kovalainen explained.

"He said it himself, he couldn't have done another season like that or he'd be dead."

"Alonso's career has never recovered"

Kovalainen also spoke about the impact Hamilton had on Fernando Alonso's career, with the two-time World Champion the top man in the sport when Hamilton arrived at McLaren in 2007.

With Alonso departing the Woking-based team after the Spygate scandal, Hamilton claimed the 2008 title as Alonso foundered at Renault.

Kovalainen pointed to the timing of Alonso's decision-making, and pondered the effect Hamilton had on Alonso's thinking.

"Since [Alonso's] championship years with Renault, he's always made the wrong move and just sometimes I wonder if the trigger was the surprise of Hamilton's speed," he said.

"If that is the core issue, then the falling out with [McLaren boss] Ron Dennis and with the team followed and there wasn't any other place to go, Renault was kind of on a downward slope. He was just playing catch up after that and that never really recovered."

How about Hamilton's new teammate, Russell?

With Hamilton getting a new teammate for 2022 in the form of young British driver George Russell, Kovalainen said that it's "too early" to judge how the pair's dynamic will work out.

While both appear to be getting along at this early point of their working relationship, Kovalainen said that the key to their friendliness will be down to how much of a threat Hamilton views his teammate.

"Maybe one reason that I've always gotten on well with Lewis, especially when I was his teammate, is that I never seriously became a huge threat for him," Kovalainen explained.

"It's just a hard fact. [He] and Rosberg for example, they didn't get along well and I believe that one of the reasons was that Rosberg was able to resist him harder. He was doing some things that weren't nice but were probably necessary in the battle."

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