Carlos Sainz: Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are F1's Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

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Carlos Sainz thinks Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are Formula One's versions of football icons Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi and Ronaldo have long been considered football's two premier talents, having exchanged the world player of the year award between themselves since 2008. The argument about F1's best current driver is not so clear-cut, though many fans and pundits frequently give Hamilton and Alonso that accolade.

However, unlike football, F1's current grid has several other candidates for that title, with pundits including four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and emerging Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Three existing F1 drivers are high on the sport's all-time winners' list: Hamilton (2nd; 53 wins), Vettel (4th; 42), Alonso (6th; 32), with Hamilton and Vettel third and fourth in all-time pole positions.

Despite the various arguments for different drivers, Toro Rosso driver Sainz is in no doubt who he feels are the sport's stand-out talents.

"Hamilton is the Messi of F1 and Christian Ronaldo would be Fernando Alonso, although Christiano wants [it all; to win and be the best]," Sainz told Spanish publication Marca. "Fernando also wants to [win], but not both."

Hamilton and Alonso have been close rivals since their season as teammates at McLaren in 2007, the former's debut season. Despite being widely considered the most complete driver on the current grid, two-time world champion Alonso has not won a title while Hamilton has been in F1, with his acrimonious fall-out with McLaren leading to his departure after narrowly missing out on the 2007 title, before further last-race heartbreak for Ferrari in 2010 and 2012.

Sainz, who enjoyed a thrilling fight with boyhood idol Alonso at last year's U.S. Grand Prix, rates his fellow Spaniard as the toughest to battle at a grand prix.

When asked the most difficult driver to fight in a wheel-to-wheel battle, he replied: "If I have to say one would be Alonso. Fernando is a fighter and has so much experience, he's always more difficult than the others. He's an old dog who knows everything".

Sainz is one of F1's most exciting talents but stayed at Toro Rosso last year when teammate Verstappen was elevated to Red Bull, a promotion which led to a debut victory in Spain. Sainz still rates himself as a better talent than Verstappen -- though he does not think that is an unusual mindset for an F1 driver to have about any of his rivals.

"I don't think Verstappen is a better driver than me. If you ask the drivers on the grid they will tell you they are the best..."