HomeSportVerstappen's success underestimated - Alonso

Verstappen’s success underestimated – Alonso

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Two-time world champion Max Verstappen achieved his 46th career win at his home grand prix at ZandvoortMax Verstappen’s achievements in dominating this season are being “underestimated”, according to two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.The Red Bull driver’s victory in the Dutch Grand Prix was his ninth in a row, equalling the all-time record set by Sebastian Vettel for the same team in the final events of the 2013 season.It came in a chaotic, challenging wet-dry-wet race in which Verstappen yet again demonstrated his superiority over the rest of the field, including his team-mate Sergio Perez. It was his 11th victory in 13 races and moves him ever closer to a third consecutive world drivers’ title.Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he believed Verstappen was “untouchable – I don’t think there is any driver on the grid who would be able to achieve what he has been doing in that car”.But Horner is biased, of course. Alonso drove an outstanding race himself at Zandvoort, including some stunning passing moves at the heavily banked Hugenholtz hairpin, on his way to second place.And afterwards, Alonso was asked what he thought about Verstappen’s achievements and whether he thought the Dutchman was driving at a level beyond everyone else, or whether someone like himself or Lewis Hamilton, could match him.Alonso said: “It is underestimated sometimes what Max is achieving. To win in such a dominant manner in any sport is so complicated. “So to be at the same level as him… we have a lot of self-confident drivers in general so I do believe that I can do it as well. I don’t know (about) Lewis, but me yes. And Lewis as well. “You need to enter in a mood in a state that you are connected to the car. “Days like today, I felt like I was at my best and was giving 100% of my abilities in a racing car. But maybe (at the last race) in Spa, or in Austria (three races previously), I was not on that level.”So you always feel there is room to improve and you are not 100% happy with yourself as I am today. And I think Max is achieving that 100% more often than us at the moment, than any other drivers, and that’s why he’s dominating.”‘There have been more dominant cars in the past’If Verstappen continues his commanding form, he can potentially win his third consecutive title at the Japanese Grand Prix in September with six races to spareVerstappen was not quite flawless at his home race. Both times it rained – at the start and in the closing laps – he left his pit stop for wet tyres a lap too late. But he was so superior that it made no difference.The Dutch Grand Prix was the sort of race that can catch out even the very best. Rain was starting to fall as the drivers lined up on the grid. By the end of the first lap, it was not clear whether it would stick around or clear quickly, complicating the decision on whether to change to wet-weather tyres.Perez went for it, Verstappen delayed, and the decision cost the world champion the lead. That was just the trigger for Verstappen to demonstrate his crushing superiority over his team-mate. He made up nine seconds on the Mexican in eight laps while passing two other cars – even if they were only the Alpine of Pierre Gasly and the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu – before retaking the lead by stopping for slick tyres a lap before Perez as the track dried out. From then on, Verstappen was in total control, even through a late torrential downpour which forced the race to be stopped for 45 minutes – but not before Perez had surrendered second place to Alonso by going straight on at Turn One after re-fitting wet tyres.”Even if you have the best car,” Verstappen said, “I think there have been more dominant cars in the past than we have at the moment and they haven’t been able to win nine in a row and however many consecutive races we have as a team. “It’s hard. Especially like today, it is easy to make a wrong call and even drop it yourself. It is never that straightforward unfortunately.”Horner said that when Vettel won nine in a row at the end of his fourth consecutive title-winning season with Red Bull, it was “something I never thought we would end up repeating”.Verstappen was modest about his achievement afterwards, merely saying: “It was probably one of the more difficult races to win again but nine in a row is something I never even thought about. I am very happy to win in front of my home crowd.”Horner added: “Quietly, he is very proud of what he is doing and achieving. The record Sebastian did in 2013, to win nine in a row is insane, and so to have done it in a team with another driver is something I don’t think any of us could have envisaged.”Why Verstappen moved onto another levelVerstappen has looked unbeatable for some time, and the turning point in the season came at the fifth race of the season in Miami.Prior to that, Verstappen and Perez had shared two wins each, and Perez was talking about being a title contender. But in Miami Verstappen humiliated Perez with a devastating performance, probably his best of the year, and he has never looked back.What had changed, he was asked after the race on Sunday, as his orange-clad fans celebrated his third consecutive home win? Verstappen admitted that his frustrating second place behind Perez in Baku, the race before Miami, had taught him some important lessons. “I learned a lot from the race in Baku how to do some things with the car and set it up,” he said. “Because of course I didn’t win that race but I really tried a lot of stuff and different tools in the car. That’s why throughout the race it was a little bit inconsistent.”But at one point I got into a good rhythm with what I found but then I damaged my tyres a bit too much. But I said: ‘OK that’s quite interesting for the next races.’ And I basically implemented that and it has helped me at every turn.”There are nine races still to go before the end of this season – although many fewer than that before Verstappen is crowned, and it was suggested to Horner on Sunday that the record would be 18 in a row by the time of Abu Dhabi.”Let’s see,” he said.’It definitely should be the overtake of the month’The Dutch Grand Prix marked 42-year-old Fernando Alonso’s 105th career podium in Formula 1Alonso’s performance at Zandvoort lent credence to his claim that he could challenge Verstappen given similar equipment, for he was outstanding around the dunes on the North Sea coast.After their stunning start to the season, in which Alonso finished on the podium six times in the first eight races for a team who finished seventh in the championship last year, Aston Martin had slipped back in the four grands prix before the summer break.But they introduced an upgrade in Zandvoort – a new floor – and it appeared to do the trick in returning the car to its previous level.”The car is better than the previous events for sure,” Alonso said. “I felt the car easier to drive, I felt more competitive, it was not only the race in which we were fast. I have felt competitive since Friday but Monza (which hosts the Italian Grand Prix this coming weekend) is a completely different layout, minimum downforce and drag, and let’s see if we are still competitive.”As the dust settles on the Dutch race, it is hard to be sure whether Aston’s race performance was more down to the car’s improved performance, or Alonso’s driving. He kept the pressure on Perez all race, and benefited from the Mexican’s late error in running off track to move from third to second.Alonso’s first couple of laps, as the rain came down and the field were on slicks, were sensational. On the opening lap, he passed Alex Albon’s Williams around the outside of Turn Two and then dived deep down into the banking at Turn Three, the Hugenholtz hairpin where the normal racing line is high up on the step banking, to separate George Russell’s Mercedes from third.A lap later, he again took the unconventional tight line there, and used it as a slingshot to pass Lando Norris’ McLaren for second on the run to the fast Sheivlak right-hander. They were typical of the sort of improvisational and unique overtaking moves that form part of Alonso’s reputation. But they were not just off-the-cuff brilliance. It turns out that Alonso had been planning it.”In practice when it was wet, I did a few laps go on the normal racing line and I found a lot of grip on the inside,” he said. “So I kept it in my head all the time in the weekend in case it was wet, I was ready to try again. “And when we were on the grid and the red lights were on for the start, there were a lot of drops in the visor, and that’s the worst feeling you can have because you are afraid to start the race on the slick tyre. You have no idea of the grip you will find braking in Turn One or Turn Three.”So I thought everyone would be a little bit cautious in Turn Three with the grip level and also just outside Turn Three there is the (sponsor) painting so you have to be a little bit cautious there. “So I thought on the inside line it could work and I got those two cars.” He smiled. “And it definitely should be the overtake of the month.”That’s a reference to an official F1 award voted for by the fans that is staged on the sport’s official website. If Alonso wins it, it would be the fourth time this year. It’s the one area in which one driver can even potentially be considered ahead of Verstappen this season.

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