Fernando Alonso has defended old rival Michael Schumacher's decision to return to Formula 1 despite the Mercedes driver's lack of results during the past 18 months.
The Spaniard developed a keen rivalry with Schumacher last decade, in particular in 2006 when they fought for the World Championship and Alonso prevailed in a last-race title shootout. On the 20th anniversary of Schumacher's F1 debut, Alonso insisted that he is not among the critics of the seven-time World Champion's comeback.
"There are some critics of his return and his results, but I don't agree with those," said Alonso. "Three years ago, Michael was watching F1 at home and now he is maybe finishing seventh or ninth, but I am sure that he is happy every morning because he is racing in F1 again and that's what he wants to do.
"Twenty years is a long time. If I think of myself, it will be 2021 if I am in F1 for 20 years. I don't think that I could do that. I want to congratulate him for these 20 years and tell him that it's a pleasure to race against him."
Alonso added that he believes Schumacher's record of seven World Championships and 91 grand prix victories might never be eclipsed, and that he understands the reasons for the Mercedes driver deciding to return.
"I have great respect for Michael," said Alonso. "He is one of the greatest of the greatest in the history of the sport; the numbers are maybe impossible to repeat for any one of us. I will always remember all of the battles with him and it was a privilege to drive against Michael. It will always be a good thing to remember.
"I'm sure that he missed the adrenaline, he missed the F1 show and he decided to come back because watching a TV is probably not easy when you are Michael. Now, in the second part of his career, obviously the car is not competitive enough to win races, but I'm sure that he's still enjoying it."