Lewis Hamilton names Fernando Alonso as his toughest rival in F1

LE CASTELLET, France -- Ahead of his 300th Formula One race, Lewis Hamilton has named his former McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso as the toughest competitor of his career.

In Sunday's French Grand Prix, Hamilton will join just five other drivers to reach that milestone in their career, including Alonso on 344 races and record holder Kimi Raikkonen on 349.

Hamilton made his F1 debut with McLaren in 2007 as Alonso's teammate and both drivers came within a point of winning the title, which was taken by Raikkonen driving for Ferrari.

Alonso fell out with McLaren over what he perceived to be preferential treatment for Hamilton and left the team at the end of the season.

Asked who was the toughest competitor he had faced in his career to date, Hamilton, who was in a press conference with Alonso, named his former McLaren teammate.

"I think it's difficult to say who has necessarily been my strongest competitor, because every time you're with someone you're in a different place of your life," he said.

"But I remember the task of being alongside Fernando when I was 22, you know, I was so young mentally and of course -- OK in terms of skill -- but it's a lot of pressure to go up against a great like him.

"So I would say out of pure pace, I think I would say it's Fernando, and his ability. We had some good battles, I wish we could have more. Hopefully he will continue to race, and hopefully we will have more in the future."

Alonso repaid the compliment, saying Hamilton was a "legend of our sport" when asked how much the Mercedes driver had changed since his debut in 2007.

"I don't think he changed much to be honest," Alonso said. "He had the talent already in 2007 and he still has the talent now, with experience. He has been a tremendous driver and a legend of our sport.

"So it has been always a pleasure to share all this time with him and back then, probably, no one thought someone will be able to win seven titles as Michael [Schumacher did]. But yes, the journey has been amazing and the team that they all built in Mercedes over these years, it was outstanding.

Congratulations for the 300th and hopefully another win soon."

All five of the drivers who have reached the 300-race milestone -- Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Alonso and Raikkonen -- have failed to win a race from that point onwards in their career.

But Hamilton, who has yet to win a race this season, said that statistic was not a concern for him.

"It doesn't faze me because I am working towards getting that win," he said. "I do believe we will at some stage be able to compete with these guys. Whether it is this weekend or in five races time."