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Fernando Alonso has described ex-McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton as the 'strongest driver' in Formula 1 at present, despite Sebastian Vettel's string of world titles. The Ferrari man, who is preparing for his fourth season with the team, believes the 2008 World Champion will be a massive on-track threat this year.
Alonso, who was speaking at Ferrari's annual Wrooom event at the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort in Italy, has warned that although Hamilton is at a team which has won just one race in three seasons, his skills should not be underestimated.
"Who is (the) strongest driver? My answer is Hamilton," Alonso said of his former adversary on Thursday. "It was true last year, it was true this year. The strongest driver? It is a personal opinion, not political, not to make people think something. Who is the strongest opponent, the strongest driver on grid? Who is the one you have to keep an eye on? It is Hamilton, and it will still be Hamilton next year."
Alonso is also certain that Hamilton will be able to win races with the Silver Arrows in 2013, backing the 28-year-old to shine alongside German team-mate Nico Rosberg.
"I am sure he will be able to win (races)," said Alonso, who missed out on the 2012 title by just three points. "Mercedes already won last year with Nico and Lewis has been winning races with all cars. Even in 2009 with a car that was two seconds off the pace, they ended the year winning. Lewis will be able to win with Mercedes as well."
Although he appeared to overlook Vettel with his initial response, Alonso went on to explain that the Red Bull driver deserves all of the success he has enjoyed in recent years and believes the German will remain extremely difficult to beat.
"I am not saying he is not the strongest driver," he said, when asked why Vettel was not ranked as his biggest rival ahead of the upcoming season. "In 2011, there were fantastic performances from him. It is true the car was far in front of everybody, they (Red Bull) were first and second consistently, and when the car is good you tend to relax in some races.
"But I remember difficult races in 2011 with wet to dry conditions, and he did not make a single mistake. So for sure in these past three years there were moments when he was better than anybody else and he deserved these three championships."
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