Fernando Alonso backtracks on bold Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen assessment

F1: Alonso heads out for run ahead of return

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Fernando Alonso has clarified comments he made recently where he declared he was a “better” driver than Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Alpine driver Alonso will start Sunday’s race in Bahrain in ninth position. It will be the Spaniard’s first race in Formula One since 2018.

Ahead of his comeback, Alonso was asked earlier this week if he feels he is as good as Mercedes’ Hamilton or Red Bull’s Verstappen.

Speaking to the BBC, the 39-year-old responded: “No, I’m better.”

However, Alonso has since backtracked on his comments, claiming he misheard the question he was asked.

“I never meant to say I was better than Lewis or Max or anyone,” Alonso said.

“Probably I misunderstood the question. I thought it was: ‘Are you as good as in 2018 when you left the sport?’

“It was not to compare to Lewis or Max or anyone – first of all it’s difficult to compare, and they have been dominating the sport for the last few years.”

Verstappen has claimed pole position ahead of Sunday’s season opener, with reigning champion Hamilton set to start in second.

The 2005 and 2006 champion Alonso says he has returned to the sport with the idea of winning championships again.

“I am back in F1 with the aim of doing well and the aim of winning races and championships,” he told BBC Sport.

“The regulations are a little bit different but basically the same as previous years so I don’t see any miracle happening there.

“I think in 2022 there is a chance, with the new regulations, of mixing the grid a little bit.

“We want to be one of those teams who surprises everybody and to do that we have to work very hard this year.

“I am looking forward to challenging the young talented guys who have been showing great performances in the younger categories.

“Then we have great champions that were here two years ago with Lewis, Sebastian [Vettel], Kimi [Raikkonen] and Verstappen, who is one of the young ones who is racing at the top level for four or five years.

“We have a very competitive grid and it is going to be a challenge to race them.”

Speaking after qualifying on Saturday, Alonso said: “It was great. I really enjoyed [it].

“These cars on low fuel and new tyres, they are very extreme in terms of performance. You have to really trust the car and believe you can go that fast. It was a really nice feeling.”

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