It's been 18 years since Fernando Alonso claimed his first F1 win at the 2003 Hungarian GP, and Sebastian Vettel believes the Spaniard has shown over the years that he is one of the best to ever take the grid.
The Alpine driver celebrated his 40th birthday on Thursday at the place where he took the first of his 32 wins all those years ago. Vettel, who battled it out with Alonso for the F1 title back in 2010 and 2012, praised the Spaniard as one of the best talents the sport has ever seen, citing his ability to beat Michael Schumacher as one of the standout reasons.
"The first race that Fernando was back this year, we had some wheel to wheel, and I was actually smiling in the cockpit because I'd been looking forward to more of it this year, and I think we had a little," Vettel told RacingNews365.com and other members of the media.
"I always enjoy [racing] Fernando. He won here in 2003, I was in front of the TV and I remember when he won. I think his talent is without doubt, the skills on track one of the biggest that the sport has seen, and he's done something which I thought was impossible to do, which is beating Michael, because when I grew up, it was like, Michael is the number one and impossible to beat – and Fernando started beating him.
"I think that's an achievement and obviously he's had such a long career, so many different cars, so I consider it a pleasure to race beside him and fight him on the track."
Alonso stated that despite his age he still feels good while admitting that he's surprised he's still competing in F1 at the age of 40.
"I feel good," Alonso told RacingNews365.com and other members of the media. "I feel not 40 for sure.
"It's the number, but it's surprising me as well when I see it, when I see everywhere in the motorhome, because the team prepared a very nice decoration in my room and in the lunch area as well. It's a bigger number than what I feel, but it's the way it is.
"You live only the present, you're not thinking too much about the future at that age and you're just focused on the race weekend. You can't imagine yourself more than two or three years in time from that moment."