F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso has confirmed that he does not see himself above Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen despite previously claiming that he was ‘better’ than every other driver on the grid. The 39-year-old made his first appearance in F1 for two years at last month’s Bahrain Grand Prix, but his race ultimately ended in disaster as he was forced into an early retirement.
A rogue sandwich bag was blamed for wrecking Alonso’s hopes of an impressive comeback after finding its way into the brakes of his Alpine car, which overheated and failed to work properly as a result.
His new team-mate Esteban Ocon crossed the line in 13th place to cap off a disappointing weekend for the French outfit.
Ahead of the race, Alonso declared to BBC Sport that he was looking forward to doing battle with the likes of Hamilton and Verstappen this year, but stressed that he was clear of all other 19 drivers in terms of raw ability behind the wheel.
Since the events of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Spaniard has clarified his comments, revealing that he misunderstood the question.
Alonso told GP Fans that he was not looking to compare himself to the two favourites to win this year’s Drivers’ Championship title, pointing out their shared dominance at the front of the grid as of late.
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“Yeah, I probably misunderstood the first question,” he said. “I thought that the question was, ‘are you as good as in 2018 when you left the sport? Which Fernando will we find in the comeback?’
“The answer was, ‘well, I am better than 2018’, because the experiences make me a better driver. It was not compared to Lewis or Max or anyone.
“It is difficult to compare to anyone. They have dominated the sport for the last few years, so I never meant to say I was better than them.”
Hamilton and Verstappen treated F1 fans to a spectacular battle at the Bahrain International Circuit, with the former holding his Red Bull rival at arm’s length to sneak victory.
Verstappen, who was on much fresher tyres than the Stevenage-born racer, took the lead with only a few laps to go but was ordered to give up the position after exceeding track limits in order to squeeze ahead.
He threw everything at Hamilton in the closing stages, but the experience of the seven-time world champion helped him to draw first blood in what is expected to be a long and closely-fought duel between now and the end of the season.
Alonso praised his former McLaren team-mate back in December, claiming that the Mercedes star is the best performer on the grid ahead of the likes of Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.
“Okay, he has a dominant car, but he’s better than his teammate,” Alonso told Marca.
“You always have to show up, he can’t afford a bad weekend, he’s at the peak of his performance. Hopefully, we can fight Lewis soon, not next year, but soon.
“I think a lot of people can win a Grand Prix with that car and they can win championships in that car. That doesn’t mean anything bad about Lewis. Like I said, he’s one step ahead.
“How important is the car? What is it like to be in the right place at the right time? It is very important.
“This is Formula 1 and it has always been like that, but when you are in that place and at that moment, you have to perform and Lewis does it better than anyone.”
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