Fernando Alonso says Lewis Hamilton will 'be happier at Mercedes' than at McLaren
Ferrari star says he can 'understand' why Lewis left Woking
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 17/01/13 4:46pm
Hamilton begins a new chapter in his career at Mercedes in 2013 having ended his 14-year association with McLaren by signing a three-season deal with his new Brackley-based team.
Although the move was announced last September, the merits or otherwise of the switch have continued to be one of the major talking points over the winter and Alonso used his first public appearance of 2013 to enter the debate on Thursday.
The Spaniard, who endured a tumultuous single season at Woking alongside a then rookie Hamilton in 2007 prior to a swift return to Renault, says he can appreciate why his rival has changed teams.
"I understand the move," Alonso said on Sky Sports News. "Always you need some new challenges when you get tired from one situation.
"I think McLaren sometimes is not the easiest place to live, so I think he will be much more happy now in Mercedes than what he was in the past."
Having already showered praise on the 2008 World Champion in an earlier media event at Ferrari's annual Wrooom ski event, Alonso reiterated: "He will be a threat [in 2013] because Lewis has always been always winning with all the cars in the past seasons and Mercedes has also won already last year with Nico Rosberg in China.
"So I think Mercedes will be able to win with Hamilton this year again and he will be always a contender."
Alonso himself has come agonisingly close to winning the World Championship in two of his three seasons at Ferrari, but insisted his relationship with the Scuderia wouldn't be compromised if he missed out again in 2013.
"No, never," he replied. "I feel extremely lucky with the situation [at Ferrari] and to fight for the championship.
"Obviously it's sad to miss the title and it's a moment you need to think [about], but there are 24 drivers, very talented, very good, drivers and they are not able to be on the podium, not able to win races, not able to be in pole positions and not able to fight for the championship.
So it's a very unique experience what we are having at the moment. It's true that we miss the title but we have to feel very privileged to arrive to that situation.
"With Ferrari it's the best team in the world, the best team in the history of Formula 1 so why should it be any worse?"
Although saying that Ferrari as a whole "are much more confident" heading into this year's winter testing programme than was the case 12 months ago, the 31-year-old did express one concern for 2013 - the length of the modern-day F1 season, revealing a desire to see more tests than extra races.
"Last year we had the last Grand Prix at the end of November and almost right up to Christmas, there were events I had to take part in," he told reporters.
"There's almost only the end of year holiday when one can have a break and I'll try to fit in a few more days between now and Melbourne to recharge my batteries.
"Twenty races is a lot and it's not easy to maintain a maximum performance level, both physical and mental, for the whole year. Maybe it would be better to have one or two fewer races and a few more test sessions."