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JUST NOW:Lewis Hamilton declared F1’s GOAT over Michael Schumacher by Sebastian Vettel.

While Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton were the best F1 drivers he raced against, Sebastian Vettel named Fernando Alonso as his “hardest” competitor.

Vettel, who made his Formula 1 debut back in 2007, grew to become a veteran figure of the grid alongside Hamilton and Alonso, the trio all multi-time World Champions. He also got to share the Formula 1 track with his childhood hero Michael Schumacher, who returned for a three-season spell with Mercedes between 2010-12.

Lewis Hamilton the ‘G.O.A.T’ but Fernando Alonso ‘hardest’

Partaking in a round of quickfire questions for talkSPORT, Vettel first would reveal a word that came to mind for various drivers of past and present.

Hamilton received the “G.O.A.T” [greatest of all time] tag, while Vettel went for “hero” with Schumacher, “hunger” for Alonso and “skill” for the reigning three-time World Champion Max Verstappen, who is chasing his fourth successive title in F1 2024.

As for former Ferrari team-mates Charles Leclerc and Kimi Raikkonen, Vettel’s word for Leclerc was “talent”, while for Raikkonen it was “badminton”. An Iceman of many skills.

With the one-word section done, Vettel was free to expand a little more, as he was first asked to name the best driver he raced against and why?

“I would say Michael and Lewis,” he replied. “Why? Because numbers speak for themselves.

“But Michael was my hero and Lewis is the best in terms of statistics.”

So while the numbers do not lie for the pair of seven-time World Champions, when it came to being asked to reveal his “toughest competitor”, Vettel went with Alonso, the pair having battled it out over the 2010 and 2012 titles, where Vettel won out by four and three points respectively over the Spaniard.

“Fernando,” Vettel declared as his toughest competitor, “I had close championships and close calls with him throughout my career and generally he’s the sort of driver that’s always there, very competitive.

“And yeah, I think he was the hardest competitor I faced.”

As for which driver “surprised” Vettel the most, that went to Verstappen, due to the skills he had when debuting in F1 as a 17-year-old, before going on to become the dominant force of the sport that he is today.

“Hard to remember all of them, but I think Max,” said Vettel, “just the sheer skill when he rocked up and how he was able to polish it and driving at the level that he is today.”

While Verstappen was expected to stroll to a fourth title in a row in F1 2024, which would see him equal Vettel’s record also set with Red Bull between 2010-13, recent victories for McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc threaten to complicate Verstappen’s path.

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