AUSTIN, Texas -- Fernando Alonso has rated Lewis Hamilton among the best Formula One drivers of all time, alongside the likes of Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.
Hamilton is on the brink of his fifth world title and could secure the championship on Sunday at the U.S. Grand Prix if he outscores Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by eight points. He is also closing in on Michael Schumacher's record of 91 wins, with 71 to his name and two full seasons left on his Mercedes contract.
Alonso, who was teammate to Hamilton at McLaren in 2007, was asked ahead of this weekend's race if Hamilton would feature in his top five champions of all time.
"It's difficult to make a top 5 of all-time greats," Alonso said, "but probably Michael [Schumacher], [Juan Manuel] Fangio, Senna, [Alain] Prost and Lewis -- that would probably be the top five.
"That's what comes to my mind but it's difficult to compare different times and different ways to win those championships. Lewis winning five now and equalling Fangio is a great achievement.
"If one had to do that in our generation I'm happy it's Lewis, because he showed the talent and he showed the commitment. When the car was dominating and delivering he won the championships and when it was not good enough he still put some performances to show his talent. That's difficult to see in our days."
In their season together at McLaren, the situation became frosty between Hamilton and Alonso as they both fought for the title and missed out by a single point to Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton was in his debut year and Alonso felt his teammate was getting preferential treatment, leading to a complete breakdown in relations with McLaren's management and, ultimately, Alonso leaving the team.
Asked if he thought in 2007 that Hamilton was capable of winning five championships, Alonso said: "Probably in 2007 it was difficult to imagine what the future would bring to Lewis or to all the other guys on the grid. He showed his talent from day one, fighting for the championship in his rookie year and winning it in 2008.
"Probably at that time we could all agree that five or seven titles would be possible for him but then he had a couple of years down, due to the performance of the car, the switching to Mercedes, so maybe at that time we all thought it wouldn't be possible, because at the time Mercedes was struggling in 2013 and things like that.
"The feelings were up and down. But I'm happy for him because he showed the talent from day one. He was able to win races when the car was there to win them, but he was also able to win races in seasons when his car was not on top form, like 2009 and things like that. He was still winning a couple of Grand Prix per year, so it's impressive."