Damon Hill has described Fernando Alonso as a “very formidable competitor” in Formula 1, who combines driving skill with knowing what to say to “rub salt into the wounds” where necessary.
Alonso returned to the podium on his first race with Aston Martin – his 99th career top-three finish in Formula 1 – but it was only his second since 2014, with his new team having made a significant stride forward compared to their performance last season.
The two-time World Champion has had several near-misses at gaining more titles in his illustrious career, but has also garnered something of a reputation for being at the wrong team at the wrong time over the years – appearing for Ferrari and McLaren in the 2010s in often under-competitive machinery.
But 1996 World Champion Hill joined those believing Alonso has joined a team in the ascendancy in Aston Martin, with their performance in Bahrain proof that he can still make the most of a competitive car when he is able to drive one.
After dropping to seventh, Alonso passed George Russell, Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz and leapfrogged Charles Leclerc after his retirement to make his way onto the podium at Sakhir.
Though his reputation precedes him for how his relationships with his previous teams have ended in the past, Hill explained just how strong a competitor he remains in Formula 1 – with every other driver on the grid surely taking note.
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“Well, the view with Fernando was he kind of used to foul his nest a little bit when he went from one team to another, and he’s got a trail of kind of rather destroyed people behind him,” Hill said of Alonso to Sky Sports News.
“And so his reputation didn’t help him, and he’s zagged when he should have zigged, but he certainly zagged the right way this time with Aston Martin, and so the joy was very self-evident.
“But the guy is a master. I mean, he is a master of understanding a race, he’s a master of competing, he seems to stay out of trouble, he has picked people off in the race and also he’s brilliant with his comments.
“You know, he knows exactly what to say to rub salt into the wounds if he has to. I think every racing driver looks at him and goes ‘now, there’s a very formidable competitor.’”