Fernando Alonso picks sides in Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton battle – ‘One step above’

F1 preview: Abu Dhabi run-through as Verstappen and Hamilton go head-to-head

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Fernando Alonso has picked sides in terms of who is the better driver between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, with the stage set for a high-stakes battle in Abu Dhabi. Tension between the title contenders has ebbed and flowed all season, but it promises to reach a crescendo next time out after a controversial race in Saudi Arabia. 

By the chequered flag on Sunday, Alonso found himself a lap down in 13th place, well behind team-mate Esteban Ocon. 

In fact, Ocon was only pipped to a sensational podium on the final straight by Valtteri Bottas, coming within one tenth of third spot. 

But with this weekend’s mouth-watering clash in Abu Dhabi on the horizon, many of the questions posed to Alonso on Thursday surrounded the battle at the top. 

Alonso and Hamilton were team-mates at McLaren, therefore the Spaniard’s clear choice regarding the pick of the current crop came as something of a surprise.

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“Mercedes has had the strongest car in recent races and should win in constructors, but Max is driving a step above the rest of the grid,” he claimed.

“Even more than the car gives him, and he deserves the title.”

The fact that Alonso admitted to Hamilton having the faster car will come as even more of a blow for the Brit, given the implication that anything other than a title win would be an underachievement. 

The superior performance of Red Bull or Mercedes cars has chopped and changed all year, although the Silver Arrows have undoubtedly had the advantage when it comes to straight-line speed in recent weeks. 

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Bottas’ podium in Jeddah ensured that Mercedes carry a healthy advantage into the final race when it comes to Constructors’ honours, but Verstappen and Hamilton are neck-and-neck. 

The Dutchman was penalised twice for over-stepping the mark in Saudi Arabia, with the title rivals colliding on two occasions. 

And given his advantage when it comes to race wins for the season, such audacious tactics have prompted fears of a race-ending incident on Sunday which would see Verstappen leave with the crown. 

Many important figures, including Red Bull boss Christian Horner and race director Michael Masi, however, have called for the championship to be decided on the track. 

Despite plenty of focus on matters at the top, Alonso still has plenty to fight for during the season finale. 

For one, the Spaniard is only two passes behind Sebastian Vettel in the Overtake Award, an accolade being fought for between three former world champions, including Kimi Raikkonen, which would surely be welcomed. 

Furthermore, he is only five points ahead of Ocon, and finishing ahead of his team-mate should be enough incentive to dig deep in Abu Dhabi. 

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