Former F1 favourite Jean Alesi says Ayrton Senna was the rival who impressed him most in his long career on the grid, pegging the Brazilian higher than Michael Schumacher.. Alesi also encountered the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost in his career, but says Senna topped them all.
Alesi came off second-best to Senna in a memorable battle at the 1990 United States Grand Prix in Phoenix, taking on the mighty McLaren in a vastly under-powered, by comparison, Tyrrell.
The Frenchman would go on to swap seats with Schumacher in the winter of 1995, the German moving to Ferrari to begin a memorable decade of success, while Alesi joined a team about to dip in form, as he had done when signing for the Scuderia.
Although Schumacher remains the most successful grand prix driver of all time, Alesi says Senna remains the fastest driver he encountered.
"Some drivers when they talk to engineers, they work for that and others not," Alesi told F1's 'Beyond the Grid' podcast.
"Michael was the typical driver where, whatever he was saying, the team was following his words.
"And that made him a huge champion, because of trust he gave to the team and the team worked with him and he was a very hard worker.
"Nobody can say with the amount of victories he had, pole positions… for sure he was special.
"But with Senna… I don't know how to say, but Senna impressed me more. Speed-wise."
Asked if Senna was the fastest driver he raced, Alesi said: "For me yes.
"Don't underestimate the cars we drove at the time, with qualifying tyres, for one shot, massive grip, 550 kilo and no power steering – he impressed me many times."
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