Alonso believes Verstappen 'driving one step ahead of everyone' as he says Dutchman ‘deserves’ 2021 title
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso has said that Max Verstappen deserves to win the Formula 1 drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi, ahead of a title decider that sees the Dutchman and Lewis Hamilton enter level on points.
The Alpine driver, Hamilton’s team mate at McLaren in 2007, has taken part in his fair share of championship deciders: he won out against Michael Schumacher in 2005 and 2006, lost out to Kimi Raikkonen the following year (along with Hamilton), and took on Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel as a Ferrari driver from 2010-13.
This season, it comes down to a winner-takes-all race at Yas Marina. Who will win, according to Alonso?
“It will depend on the package a little bit; Mercedes lately have been more performing and they’ve won a couple of races now, but Max is driving – in my opinion – one step ahead of all of us. We saw the [qualifying] lap in Jeddah, until he touched the wall at the last corner, that lap was coming from Max, not the Red Bull.
“In a way, that’s my opinion: Mercedes deserve the constructors’ championship because the car is superior and Max, maybe overall in the year, was driving one step ahead of everyone,” said the Spaniard.
The Spaniard added that he’s not “supporting” Verstappen but explained why he thinks the Dutchman “deserves” to win his maiden F1 title ahead of defending champion Hamilton this season.
“It’s not that I support Max,” clarified Alonso, “it’s that he deserves it in my opinion. Everyone has a different opinion, but he is driving that Red Bull to another level. I think [they don’t need] advice because they are very well prepared, they are committed, they are fast, they are professional, no mistakes for both of them driving at the limit. I think it is very interesting to watch from the outside, that’s good.”
Furthermore, Alonso stressed that he has his own mission to focus on, Alpine sitting 29 points ahead of AlphaTauri and on the verge of securing P5 in the constructors’ championship this weekend.
“I’m not in the fight so I’m supporting my team; we are fighting for fifth in the constructors’, we have a good advantage now over Pierre [Gasly] and Yuki [Tsunoda] and AlphaTauri but you never know what could happen in a race so you need to be focused and deliver a good performance on Sunday.
“What is happening at the front, as a motorsport fan you are following and you are aware of the stress... and it’s nice to watch from the outside.
“But whoever wins, it doesn’t change too much your approach or your weekend, as I said, when someone asks, I can have an opinion and everyone has a different one – but I’m not supporting anyone,” he concluded.