Mark Webber is unsure Fernando Alonso is as quick as he used to be and fears he could struggle like Valentino Rossi in MotoGP.
Alonso is back on the F1 grid this season after two seasons away from the sport, driving for Alpine, and has had mixed fortunes in the first two rounds of his comeback.
He impressed in Bahrain, qualifying ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon and making it to Q3 before running ahead of the Frenchman for most of the race until an issue forced him to retire.
At Imola, meanwhile, he scored his first point of the season but was slower than Ocon throughout the weekend.
Webber, who raced against Alonso for years and was good friends with the Spaniard, expected him to struggle and says he needs to find his feet quickly.
“I’m a superfan of Fernando and he knows that,” the Aussie told Marca.
“He was something spectacular. But I was worried because I knew it wouldn’t be easy for him, it’s a fact that it’s been complicated. When your name’s Alonso, Schumacher, Lauda…comebacks can be complicated. It’s been proven in many sports.
“I don’t doubt, far from it, Fernando’s motivation. He’s extraordinary, very versatile with many types of cars, but Formula 1 doesn’t understand patience. It’s the pinnacle, you can’t apologise and say ‘I need more time’.
“Why is that? Because in F1 you always have to be ready and he knows that.”
At 39 years old, Alonso is the second oldest driver on the grid behind his former Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
Webber worries that at that age, he no longer has the outright pace he used to have and is hoping he does not go the same way as seven-time former MotoGP champion Rossi who, at 42, has started to struggle in recent years.
“That’s my question – can Fernando today surpass the Fernando of 25 years ago?” Webber added.
“He’s just as good, he has more experience but… is he really as fast, as brave? That’s a question only he can answer. I’m always positive about him, but the facts are different.
“Look at Valentino Rossi. He’s suffering, it’s horrible, I hate to see him, I refuse to see him like this. We know he can turn it around because we trust him, but the stopwatch never lies, it’s the damned reality.”