Mark Webber says that he knew just how good Lewis Hamilton was as soon as he saw the Brit at a Jerez test for the first time.
The pair were on the grid together from when Hamilton joined the sport with McLaren in 2007 to when Webber retired after the 2013 season.
The Brit immediately impressed in his rookie season, but Webber says he could tell he was special before he’d even done a race.
“I knew he was special immediately,” the former Red Bul driver told Channel 4.
“I remember being in Jerez in the south of Spain and he was testing with us, a rookie obviously, and the fitness levels, the professionalism, the lap times and sheer speed, he was fearless.
“Back then they did a lot of mileage in the build-up, you could drive the car, simulators weren’t as strong then, but you immediately saw that this guy was doing things special.
“Mixed conditions, a bit cold, bit drizzly, and when you’re really low on experience you might not have quite as much bravado to go and take it on… Hamilton has never ever shied – since day one – away from anything to do with these weapons for cars.”
Webber and Hamilton battled it out for the 2010 World Championship, with both eventually beaten by Sebastian Vettel.
More often than not in two of the fastest cars on the grid, they went wheel to wheel numerous other times, and Webber says fighting with the seven-time World Champion was always hard, but fair.
“He was unique. I tried to get a few punches on him, didn’t get many because he was always ducking and diving, world-class wheel-to-wheel,” the Aussie added.
“It was hard, really hard racing with him, you knew you had to bring your A-game. Obviously, my A-game was his B-game so he was always operating on a level above me.
“But we made contact very few times, once in Singapore in 2010, but even then we also had a very good relationship.
“A guy who has a trophy cabinet like that, and he’s raced against so many of us, the style that he has done it in has to be very special.”