The best kind of sport is so often about respect, especially between its giants. And this afternoon there was plenty of it between outgoing Fernando Alonso and his old sparring partner Lewis Hamilton.
The two set between 2019 rookies-to-be, George Russell and Lando Norris, and the atmosphere was a positive reflection when an era came to an end and humor.
Alonso could not consciously resist choosing one of his least satisfying memories when he asked to share his best when he smiled impishly and said, "2007 season with Lewis!"
"But you know," he added more seriously, "more than the races or victories, in this time I've spent in Formula 1, it's the people I've worked with and shared my life with – I'm 37 and I've been here I've worked with many talented engineers, designers, drivers and the media, and have seen many things. These are the best things to remember. How to approach the contests, the philosophy, the competition, discipline. When you compete in the WEC (World Endurance Championship) you realize that Formula One is one step higher, where you always try to find perfection. "
And did he ever find it?
"Maybe there were some of them, the perfect competitions, and maybe the highest one was Valencia in 2012."
There, Alonso struck 11th place in his Ferrari to advance with outstanding strategy and powerful driving when Sebastian Vettel's leading Red Bull retired with alternator errors.
"Normally you would never be able to win that competition again if you repeated it 100 times. This was a good example of excellent strategy, good surprises and a lot of risk. The car was not amazing and we were not even in Q3 after qualifying. We were not dominant but we could still win. So, probably, that breed was my best. "
Interestingly, as Hamilton sat laughing next to him, Alonso appointed Michael Schumacher as his "best rival".
"It's hard to choose just one, but I have to say Michael. When I came to Formula One, Michael had dominated the sport, I had seen him win when I got up.
"My first race was with Minardi, who was almost bankrupt until Paul Stoddard saved it. I remember when I left the mines in Melbourne, my first race in 2001, there were a queue of cars at the end of the pit and I almost crashed into them because I could not activate neutral. Then finding myself killing wheel-to-wheels with Michael when I was on Renault; the battles were the best! "
Hamilton, however, was gracious about his strictest rival.
"I do not remember to ever have a personal question with Fernando 2007," he said. "It was more how the team was run and how the situation was handled between us. We never had a problem between us, except we tried to beat each other. It used to be quite harmonious. Now that we are old men, respect is higher than ever and I hope I'll see Fernando around in the future and wish him the best in his future endeavors. "
Alonso again acknowledged, the tongue-in-cheek that the most missed thing was press conferences, but added: "I will miss driving the cars. Whether you are 14th, fifth or fighting for victory or the podium – which would be a extra party – these cars are very special. The technology in them is difficult to replicate. But other aspects have been more negative – you have no friends, no family, no free time, no privacy, no children … "
And once again he did not rule out a possible return if he could enter a competition car.
"At the moment, I definitely think the door is not closed. I've done this all my life and maybe in May or July next year, I'll be desperate on the couch and find my way back. It can not be for a special occasion, but more how I feel in the middle of next season.
"I like Formula One and will always love it, whether it's like a father or maybe the FIA boss or anything, I'll always feel."
The inheritance that the Great Spaniard leaves is difficult to define but those whom he would like to choose try to help young drivers with dreams and talents and the pride he has to see how many of his compatriots and his asturies now follow a sport there was no television until 2003, when he won his first grand prix.
"I'm really proud of how the Asturians now respond to F1, and to me it's a bigger achievement than two world championships," he said. "It's about changing people's lives and introducing many people into a sport. It's bigger than any trophy."
Later, Max Verstappen was less gracious when he repeated that he did not regret his actions with Esteban Ocon in the immediate aftermath of their collision that cost him the Brazilian GP last time.
"Not really, because I was after an apology and I got some different answers," said the Dutchman. "We are all emotional and then I lost a victory so I think I was very calm at my side. It could have been much worse.
"And what do you expect me to do? Shake your hand and say" thank you so much for being second instead of first "? I think it's a fairly normal answer.
"You do not hear what is said on the scales, you just see me pushing me. But if you understand the whole conversation, you'll see it a little bit different. He said something I did not expect to hear. It does not matter what it was in end of the day, because it clearly showed me.
"It's easy to say about other people" you should have done something different. "I do not expect to crash with a backmarker. If you meet, I do not really understand what to do differently."
Once again, an elderly athlete was handed over to sum up the situation, but as Sebastian Vettel, as he was quite hothead in extremis, was seen in Baku in 2017, gave a moderate answer as he said: "We have feelings. We are people and feelings both The roads are full of joy when something happens and you're happy and they probably swing if you're not happy or upset.
"We are here to fight for something that means the world for us. We started all racing when we were young children in go-karts and being in an F1 car is the dream we all had. To drive an F1 car, and then fight for a victory, there's something big at stake. It's not like you get a piece of cake when you're doing well, or do not understand if you do not have it. "
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