Max wary of ‘bit old, but very fast’ Alonso on front row

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen shakes Fernando Alonso's hand. Montreal, June 2022.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen congratulates Alpine's Fernando Alonso after he earned his first front row spot since 2012. Montreal, June 2022.

Max Verstappen quipped that Fernando Alonso is “a bit old” now, but is still very much aware of what he can do on the first lap of a race.

Alonso will be starting alongside Verstappen on the front row for the Canadian Grand Prix after a sensational lap in mixed conditions in Montreal, with the Alpine driver taking his first top-two start since 2013 as a result.

The 40-year-old said with a wink on the grid that he’ll be attacking the World Championship leader heading into the first corner on Sunday, with a mixed-up order setting up what could be an exciting race on Sunday.

Verstappen took pole comfortably in the end in his Red Bull, but when it comes to getting off the line, the Dutchman knows all too well about how much ground Alonso can make up early on in races.

“To be on the front row together with Fernando, I mean, I used to look at F1 as a little kid and seeing Fernando being up there and winning his races and championships and putting it on poles,” Verstappen said after qualifying.

“So to be sharing the front row is a nice thing, you know, I mean, of course Fernando is getting a bit old but he’s still very fast.

“I know he starts very well you know, so I have to be ready.”

Verstappen’s pace advantage coupled with his closest title competitors, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc, being massively out of position – with Leclerc starting right at the back – should make Verstappen hot favourite for victory on Sunday.

But despite that being true, the overtaking possibilities around Canada mean he could still be reeled in at the front, especially if Carlos Sainz is able to leapfrog Alonso early on in the race.

The World Champion is looking forward to seeing how it pans out, however.

“Of course I still expect it not to be straightforward race but I think today with the tricky conditions, we stayed calm, we didn’t make mistakes and we had the right calls in Q3,” he said.

“So of course [I’m] super happy with that you know, to get pole position here and also to be back here in Montreal, it’s been a while and it’s great to see all the fans.

“You really get that kind of like go karting sensation back with like real proper kerbs around here. So we always enjoy driving here and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”