Fernando Alonso believes he and Max Verstappen are both seen as “aggressive, rude and politically incorrect drivers” – but he is unsure why that is the case.
The pair share plenty of mutual respect for each other on and off track, and the two double World Champions have both appeared on the podium at all three races so far this season.
Verstappen’s dominance last year saw him surpass Alonso’s career total of race victories, and the Spaniard feels he could end up winning as many titles as Lewis Hamilton eventually in the correct machinery.
But one way in which the two are similar is the way they have galvanised support for Formula 1 within their respective countries, with Alonso pointing to the partisan support that became a huge part of the Spanish Grand Prix every year as he came through into the category, and the ‘Orange Army’ which now follows Verstappen around Europe.
For one reason or another, however, he feels that he and the reigning World Champion are not universally backed for their approaches.
“He could win five, six or seven titles. Max is very good, but of course he also needs a competitive car,” Alonso said to L’Equipe.
“We both come from small countries with little Formula 1 culture. In my time, Spain was blue, and now we see orange everywhere. And also, I don’t know why, but we are both seen as aggressive, rude and politically incorrect drivers.”
Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen unafraid to speak their minds
Perhaps the allusion to ‘politically incorrect’ that Alonso refers to could be that he and Verstappen are often outspoken on a number of subjects within the Formula 1 sphere.
Alonso has long been the sport’s master politician in a way, saying exactly what he needs to in order to get the message across that he wants to portray, while Verstappen’s approach has been more about speaking out on matters to do with the sport’s governance and the direction of travel in Formula 1.
This is evident in particular with his opposition to sprint qualifying, in his belief that it goes against the “DNA” of Formula 1 and that it further inflates an already-bloated calendar.
There’s no doubting that their words have courted controversy in the past at separate times, but Alonso’s view that they are ‘politically incorrect’ could just mean that they are more willing to speak out in certain ways that other drivers do not in a public forum.