Alonso: 'Lewis is my biggest rival'
BEST OF RIVALS: Ferrari's Fernando Alonso (right) says Lewis Hamilton is still his biggest threat in Formula 1.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso has tipped Lewis Hamilton to win races in the 2013 Formula 1 season, despite his move from McLaren to Mercedes.
He sees Hamilton as more the man to watch than Red Bull's triple world champion Sebastian Vettel.
KEEP AN EYE ON HAMILTON
Alonso said: "Who is the strongest opponent, the strongest driver on the grid? Who is the one you have to keep an eye on? It is Hamilton - and it will still be Hamilton next year.
"I am sure he will be able to win. He is a super good driver because he won every year with any car. He won in 2007 and 2008. In 2009 they started around two seconds off the pace with the McLaren and Hamilton was able to win races. And it was the same in 2010."
Alonso pointed out that Mercedes Nico Rosberg won a race in 2012 during a season when the car was largely uncompetitive.
MORE THAN ONE RACE WIN ON THE CARDS
Hamilton commented that he "will be able to win more than one race" in 2013.
Hamilton made his Formula 1 debut alongside Alonso at McLaren in 2007 and ended the season as overall runner-up, ahead of the double champion although tied on points, with four victories and podium finishes in his first nine races.
He remains the only team mate to have beaten Alonso over the course of a season.
Hamilton, champion in 2008, said he does not expect Mercedes to challenge the championship in 2013 and has also played down the chances of race wins before the new regulations in 2014.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Vettel beat Alonso to the 2012 title by three points after a final race in Brazil that could have gone either way.
Alonso said: "For sure in these three years there were moments when he was better than anybody else and he deserved these three championships."
Alonso also replied to a suggestion from Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, in a recent interview that he played political games while Vettel shut out all the chatter to focus on racing.
"I simply drive cars. They say that they did not listen and they did not speak. They were saying they were not being influenced by what we said, but it means they did listen or someone woke up at night and read the comments - because they had to calm down," said Alonso.
THE ONLY WAY IS UP
Alonso was optimistic about the upcoming season, which starts in Australia on March 17 2013, after Ferrari began 2012 with a car that was well off pace.
He said: "We can be faster or slower, but not 1.5 or two seconds off the pace. It is maybe impossible to be worse than last year, so I am confident."