Fernando Alonso lavishes praise on Max Verstappen despite Hamilton relationship
Fernando Alonso knows a thing or two about being an F1 world champion – and he believes Max Verstappen has been a deserving winner this time around.
The Dutchman took the title in the most dramatic of finales at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the final lap in a moment set to go down in F1 folklore.
In-keeping with the epic battle between Verstappen and Hamilton this season though, there was no shortage of controversy, with the Mercedes man seemingly in control in the closing stages when Williams driver Nicholas Latifi crashed, prompting a safety car.
Verstappen duly took the risk of pitting and it paid off when race director Michael Masi ordered that lapped cars could not overtake the car before it exited the track on the penultimate lap, before changing his mind and allowing some to do so.
It meant he headed into the final lap right on Hamilton's tail, and with fresh tyres, inevitably soared past him to take the chequered flag.
But while debate over the incident rages on, Alonso's pre-race words left no doubt as to who he felt was most worthy of the championship – and it wasn't former McLaren teammate Hamilton.
"Max is driving, in my opinion, one step ahead of all of us. Mercedes deserve the constructors' championship because the car is superior," he told ESPN.
"Max, he deserves [the title] in my opinion."
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Alonso, 40, experienced a good weekend at the Yas Marina, despite being left furious after exiting qualifying at the Q2 stage, feeling he was wrongly blocked by Daniel Ricciardo.
However, the Spaniard came from 11th on the grid to eventually finish in eighth place and take four points, meaning he finishes his 2021 comeback season with a total of 81 – enough for 10th position overall.
He will remain with his current Alpine team for the 2022 campaign alongside Esteban Ocon, and has even hinted at driving beyond that after achieving a first podium finish in seven years at last month's Qatar Grand Prix.
French driver Ocon was also in the points as he finished ninth, and after the race the official Alpine Twitter account posted a video of both drivers debriefing the weekend, with Alonso saying "It was good end of the season and summarised what we can do."
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