F1: Rivalry 'could net billions'

Lewis Hamilton's battle for supremacy in the Formula One drivers' championship with McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso could help propel him to billionaire status by the end of his career, according to a sports marketing expert.

Lewis Hamilton's battle for supremacy in the Formula One drivers' championship with McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso could help propel him to billionaire status by the end of his career, according to a sports marketing expert.

Hamilton has enjoyed a phenomenal start to his F1 career, with podium finishes in his first five grands prix before victory in Canada on Sunday which helped him open up an eight-point lead on reigning world champion Alonso at the top of the drivers' standings.

There are signs of a genuine rivalry developing between the two after Alonso revealed he was "not totally comfortable" at McLaren since Hamilton's arrival and Henry Chappell, the managing director of leading sports marketing firm Pitch PR, believes that can only be good for the 22-year-old Briton's earning potential.

Chappell said: "He could be the first $100m-a-year sportsman.

"You then take it forward - Michael Schumacher had a 15-year career in Formula One, this guy is showing the potential to do the same at the top level so Lewis Hamilton could be the first guy to earn about 1.5 billion in dollars, so he could become the first billion-pound sportsman. The British Grand Prix had lost an edge and Formula One globally had.

"What's fantastic here is that Alonso and Hamilton can go head to head.

"Tiger Woods and Schumacher have dominated the earnings' table but I think they would have earned even more if they had had a real rival.

"Hamilton v Alonso - that could be up there with Ali v Frazier or McEnroe v Connors.

"What's good about it is the cars should be quite equal and it looks like they're going to be allowed to go for it. The media is desperate to see a duel between them and it's what the sport needs."

Spanish racer Alonso is already feeling Hamilton's impact after joining McLaren from Renault following back-to-back drivers' championships.

He said in an interview: "Well, right from the start I've never felt totally comfortable.

"I have a British team-mate in a British team, and he's doing a great job. We know that all the support and help is going to him and I understood that from the beginning.

"But I'm not complaining. I've won two races out of six and I've finished on the podium four times and I have those 40 points that will allow me to fight for the title in the end."

Alonso is still convinced he can overhaul Hamilton and win a third straight drivers' crown, adding: "I'm calm, I'm fine, but I know there's a certain impatience to return to the top and dominate.

"But I'm second in the championship, I'm eight points behind.

"At the moment I am where I expected to be and with a clear chance of winning the title."

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