Lewis Hamilton has taken a none-too-subtle potshot at longtime F1 rival Fernando Alonso, after the Alpine driver suggested Verstappen's back-to-back championships were worth more than Hamilton's combined.
Verstappen secured back-to-back drivers championship wins at the United States GP last weekend, joining Alonso as a two-time F1 champion, but still trailing seven-time winner Hamilton.
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After first breaking through to win the championship in just his second season on the grid back in 2008, Hamilton won a further six after he joined Mercedes for 2013 and beyond.
F1's turbo hybrid engine era has been kind to Hamilton, with Mercedes far and away the strongest of the three engine manufacturers and pairing that with an exquisitely well-run operation.
Hamilton won every F1 championship from 2014 to 2020, barring the exception of the 2016 title which was won by Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
Alonso though, believes the massive advantage had over their F1 rivals meant Hamilton was effectively only racing his teammate - thanks to the Mercedes outclassing every other team's car for several seasons in a row.
Alonso thinks Verstappen's world titles are worth more than Hamilton's 👀 pic.twitter.com/imRzgF5Rzk
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) October 29, 2022
In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, Alonso said compared Hamilton's achievements to his own back-to-back titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006.
"I have a lot of respect for Lewis, but still it is different when you win seven world titles when you only had to fight with your teammate," Alonso said.
"Then I think a championship has less value than when you have fewer titles but have had to fight against other drivers with equal or even better material.
"In 2005 and 2006, I had a good start to the year myself and was able to create a lead. Then others might have had a better car, but I was able to manage that gap.
"I never had to fight with my teammate to win those titles. Nor did I see Max fighting with [Sergio] Perez or [Alex] Albon to win races.
"But Schumacher in particular fought with his teammate to become champion five times in a row and Hamilton fought with Rosberg and [Valtteri] Bottas. That's different, I think."
Lewis Hamilton responds to Fernando Alonso criticism of F1 titles
Alonso's comments about Hamilton take on another dimension when taking into account their brief and tumultuous time as F1 teammates at McLaren in 2007.
Having signed Hamilton for his F1 debut and secured Alonso, fresh from his back-to-back titles with Renault, McLaren looked to have arguably the strongest driver pairing on the grid that year.
But the two couldn't get out of each other's way, both memorably finishing one point behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen for the 2007 championship.
Alonso was memorably penalised for deliberately preventing Hamilton from coming into the pits during qualifying for that year's Hungarian GP, securing what would have been pole position for himself were it not later stripped from him.
Soon after Alonso's comments hit the wider F1 world, Hamilton took to social media, sharing an image of himself an Alonso from 2007 - in which Hamilton stands on the top step of the podium ahead of Alonso.
Alonso later took to Twitter himself to clarify his comments comparing Verstappen and Hamilton.
"Please, all the titles are amazing, well deserved and inspiring. Incomparable to each other and let's enjoy champions and legends of our current time," he wrote.
"Tired of the continuous search for headlines. Let's enjoy them".
Hamilton is set to start third on the grid for the Mexican GP this weekend, behind pole winner Verstappen and Mercedes teammate George Russell.
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