Alonso stops short of comparing Verstappen to Schumacher
By Ian Parkes
Friday 6th October, 2023 - 8:13pm
Fernando Alonso has hailed Max Verstappen’s “incredible season” with the Red Bull driver on the brink of winning a third successive F1 drivers’ title but feels it is still too soon to compare him to Michael Schumacher.
Verstappen goes into this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix with a lead of 177 points over team-mate Sergio Perez and with only 180 left on the table.
There is every possibility Verstappen could win his latest title in Saturday’s sprint. If the Dutch driver wins that event and Perez is fourth or lower, he will become a three-time champion before turning a wheel in Sunday’s grand prix.
Two-time champion Alonso feels what Verstappen has achieved this year, winning 13 of the 16 races so far, has been remarkable.
“Big congratulations!” said Alonso.
“He’s had an incredible season, breaking so many records, winning so many races, and they were not all easy races, sometimes they were tricky with weather conditions.
“In June and July, all the races were hit by rain on Saturdays or Sundays, so it was sometimes tricky, but when you make no mistakes and you deliver the job every Sunday, it’s big respect.”
Put to Alonso that over the years he had gone wheel-to-wheel with Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, both seven-time champions, and four-time title-winner Sebastian Vettel, and whether Verstappen could now be mentioned in the same breath, Alonso’s reply was surprising.
Ignoring Hamilton and Vettel, he said: “Honestly, I’ve only been wheel-to-wheel with Michael.”
Pushed on whether Verstappen was comparable to Schumacher, he added: “Maybe. We have to wait and see.
“The next few years will be even better for Max, to be honest, as he’ll keep adding championships, so we will compare to Michael even closer in the future.”
Perez offered a suggestion after the first five races that he could challenge Verstappen this season, only to lose his way with his set-up, whilst his rival took a step forward after unlocking new settings during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Since the sixth race of the year in Monaco, Perez has managed just four podiums – twice a runner-up and twice third – whilst Verstappen has won 11 of 12 races.
Assessing Verstappen’s astonishing run, Perez said: “Max has done a tremendous job. No credit should be taken away from the season he has done.
“He’s driven on another level compared to anyone else, and that’s something I have a lot of respect for.
“He’s been able to deliver, weekend in, weekend out, and it doesn’t matter what the conditions are.
“The level of confidence he has with the car, at this stage, is extremely high, and we see it with the results.”