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Alonso believes Hamilton 'better than Vettel'

He may have trailed the German by a substantial margin in 2011, but one rival believes that Lewis Hamilton is still a hotter hand than current F1 champion Sebastian Vettel.

One is a double world champion, the other a troubled talent sidetracked by off-track problems in 2011, but it is the latter that one of their biggest rivals rates more highly.

Lewis Hamilton may not have always seen eye-to-eye with Fernando Alonso during the solitary year they spent together at McLaren in 2007, but it is a sign of their improving relationship that the Spaniard continues to rate his former nemesis ahead of reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton has struggled to repeat his title-winning form of 2008, his second season in the top flight, while Vettel's star has risen hand-in-hand with Red Bull's ascendancy to the top of the F1 tree over the past three years, becoming the youngest back-to-back champion since Alonso repeated as number one in 2005-06.

It may be because of Red Bull's superiority that Alonso holds the view that he does, but the Spaniard is clearly wary of Hamilton's threat should he be able to put last year behind him.

"Lewis is so fast, aggressive, totally focused," Alonso admitted to Germany's Sport Bild magazine, "He is interested only in victory.

"Sebastian has not quite reached that level. I know he is a two-time world champion, but he is still slightly below the level of Lewis."

Of course, Hamilton's chances will also hinge largely on McLaren producing a car that can prove competitive with Red Bull - and, Alonso hopes, Ferrari - from the start of the 2012 campaign, which kicks off with pre-season testing in Spain on 7 February.

All three teams have now revealed when their new cars will break cover, with RBR announcing an online launch the day before track action gets underway. McLaren and Ferrari will unveil their contenders at their Woking and Maranello bases on 1 February and 3 February respectively.

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