Max Verstappen says he’s hopeful that Fernando Alonso will be able to mount a title challenge during the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Alonso finished the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in third place, following the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Sergio Perez across the line.
Aston Martin has taken a notable step forward compared to 2022 and appeared to possess the second-fastest car during Sunday’s race.
Alonso has spent several years competing in the midfield back, with the last of his two F1 titles coming 17 years ago.
Although Red Bull eased to victory in Bahrain, Verstappen says he hopes Alonso will be able to have a chance to fight for the title this year.
“I hope so for Fernando as well because he has had a few years where there was not really a possibility to fight at the front,” Verstappen said.
“So I’m happy to see him sitting here already in race one. I think also again, I mentioned it before, but at Aston Martin they really have the spirit and drive.
“They want to win and they’ve hired a lot of good people. So I guess it can only get better for them.”
Verstappen remained cautious over Aston Martin’s title prospects for the year ahead, but said that race victories are a strong possibility.
“I think for this year, difficult to say if they’re going to challenge for the championship, but race wins are definitely on the table.
“I’ve been in the same position where some races I’m finishing 20 to 40 seconds behind the winners and you still win two or three races a year because sometimes there are some tracks which really suit your car and everything just comes together.
“You can win a race with maybe sometimes a bit of help or luck.
“But for sure they have a really strong package. And now of course it’s all about developing it further.”
Alonso’s last race victory came at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, almost 10 years ago.
After enjoying a dream start to life at Aston Martin, the two-time World Champion says that he is now eyeing up taking his 33rd race win.
“I would say yes because when you are P3 in race one, there are 22 opportunities this season,” Alonso said, when asked if he was hoping to add to his win tally.
“And even last year, I remember in Canada, wet qualifying, we were in the first row of the grid. You know, anything can happen in 22 races with different conditions.
“And, you know I will try my best to do have the opportunity. Maybe we need some help. Last year, we needed some help from the top teams just to get the podium.
“Maybe this year, if there is this help or there is some retirements in front of us or some problems maybe it’s more than a podium. So let’s hope for that.”
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