Max Verstappen v Fernando Alonso compared to Alonso v Lewis Hamilton in 2007
Max Verstappen’s battle with Fernando Alonso in 2023 has been likened to the latter’s rivalry with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in a comparison of Formula 1 driving styles.
Having joined the rejuvenated Aston Martin team over the winter, Alonso has finished third in the opening two races of the season behind the dominant Red Bulls of Verstappen and Sergio Perez in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The Spaniard’s strong start to the campaign has raised expectations that Alonso may be set to end his decade-long wait for a grand prix win, having last tasted victory while driving for Ferrari at his home race in Barcelona in May 2013.
Speaking via his YouTube channel, former Williams and Ferrari team manager Peter Windsor – a close confidant of the esteemed driver coach Rob Wilson, who has worked with the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas, David Coulthard and more over many years – believes the pole position shootout in Bahrain earlier this month revealed a clear difference in the driving styles of Verstappen and Alonso.
Verstappen claimed pole in Sakhir with a margin of three tenths to the first non-Red Bull, whereas Alonso qualified fifth.
Windsor said: “When it came down to it, when it came down to that pressure lap in Q3, it was interesting to watch because Max was out first and did his time and it was on the board.
“And then Fernando went out and the difference in body language between the two drivers was absolutely stark in my view.
“Max his usual very supple self. Nothing about late braking or getting on the power early with Max, it’s all about managing the dynamic weights, and that’s what we saw.
“You notice it particularly going into the last corner in Bahrain.
“There’s a nice head-on [television] shot and you can see there the change in direction, straight line and then into the right hander, and whenever Max was doing that it was just a seamless movement – beautiful to watch, early turn-in.
“Slightly shorter corner there than Sergio Perez – and it’s a relatively easy corner to shorten, that one, because that’s what it kind of invites you to do.
“But Fernando, by contrast, was just Fernando Alonso – everything was a jolt.
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“You noticed it particularly going into Turn 11, just a jolt in the car before he went into the left hander.
“All that is great – that is Fernando Alonso, that’s the Fernando we’ve known for 22 years in Formula 1 – but when you’re up against an extremely good car like the Red Bull and it’s being driven by Max Verstappen, who’s doing everything perfectly in terms of managing the dynamic weights, Fernando needs to be able to deliver a little bit more than that.”
Windsor pinpointed other areas of the track where Verstappen had an advantage, comparing the difference between the drivers to when Hamilton matched Alonso, the reigning double World Champion, in the British driver’s debut season in 2007.
He added: “It’s the difference between Fernando in the McLaren in 2007 alongside Lewis Hamilton, and we saw it absolutely in stark contrast in my view.
“We saw it also going into [Turn] 1, particularly Fernando at the beginning of his lap.
“You could tell that the adrenaline was pumping and he braked just a fraction too late, because Fernando is all about late braking, and ran a little bit wide.
“Yes, he kept it all together – classic Fernando, beautiful hand and foot work to keep it together – and then through [Turns] 9 and 10 I thought he was very abrupt through there.
“He was right on the edge. He didn’t lock up the inside front because there’s enough grip from a new set of soft tyres.
“In a race for sure, after four of five laps on a full load of fuel, that is [the type of corner] where Max will have him, that’s where Fernando potentially is at his most vulnerable – locking up an inside front, running a little bit wide out of 10 and then Max will be gone.
“Max through there was Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen DNA.
“Just perfect in terms of positioning the car through 9 – that really, really quick kink, just on the edge of the marbles, giving himself perfect room to get the car stopped and get a lovely exit out of 10.
“It was just a magical lap from Max, I thought.”