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‘No doubt Verstappen will be on the podium, minimum’

Fernando Alonso believes Max Verstappen will easily overcome the disadvantage of starting 15th on the grid for tomorrow’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Verstappen set the pace through all three practice sessions for this weekend’s race. However a driveshaft failure during Q2 means he will line up 15th on the grid.

Alonso took advantage of Verstappen’s problem to claim second on the grid alongside the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez. But Alonso expects they will have to contend with the reigning world champion during the grand prix.

“I think Max will come eventually in the race,” he said. “They have this advantage – I don’t know which race it was last year that he started last, he changed the power unit and still finished P2 or even he won the race. So I think tomorrow there is no doubt that he will be in the podium, probably, minimum.”

Aston Martin were the closest team to Red Bull in the season-opening race two weeks ago, but Alonso believes they are “not in that position yet” to challenge them for wins.

“On pure pace, I think Red Bull is in another league and I think we have to concentrate more on the teams behind,” he said.

“Ferrari will be very strong, Mercedes are strong, also Alpine they are fast here. So I think our race is just behind us.

“But we saw today Max probably was in his league today in qualifying and he could not complete the qualifying with a mechanical issue, apparently. So even if we focus on our mirrors and try to keep the people behind, if anything happens in front, we will try to take the opportunity for sure.”

Rivalling Red Bull is “not our goal” for the time being, said Alonso. “When we launched the car on the 13th of February, I remember very well a conversation with [team principal] Mike Krack, with Lance [Stroll], with the senior management of the team setting the goals for this year and the goals were not fighting Red Bull for the win tomorrow.

“So let’s keep it simple, let’s keep the feet on the ground and don’t make any mistake. Even if we are competitive, we cannot leave these kind of weekends that are so good for us with no points. That would be our biggest mistake. So whatever is available tomorrow, I’m sure we will take it.”

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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