Just days ahead of his return to the F1 grid with Alpine, Fernando Alonso is bristling with confidence, insisting he's not only as good as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen but even "better".
Alonso has rekindled his relationship with F1 after two years away from the sport, with the rebranded Alpine outfit his port of re-entry. It's a homecoming of sorts for the two-time world champion who won both his titles with the Enstone squad.
"It’s going to be great, I’m looking forward," said Alonso in an interview with the BBC. "There are some young, talented guys that’ve been showing great performance in the younger categories.
"And then we still have the champions. Lewis, Sebastian [Vettel], Kimi [Räikkonen], Verstappen – even if he (Max) is one of the young ones, of the younger generation, he has raced at the top level already for four years, five years.
"We have a very competitive grid and it’s going to be a challenge to meet everyone on track.
Whether the Spaniard returns with a vengeance remains to be seen, but the 39-year-old has certainly stocked up on confidence.
Asked if he believes he is still as good as his front-running F1 colleagues, Alonso fired back: "No, I'm better!"
Alonso's ambitions this season will likely be limited to Alpine's level of performance, but the French outfit knows its charismatic driver will always give it his all and extract the most from his equipment.
The Spaniard has thoroughly prepared for his return to the pinnacle of motorsport, undergoing several private test sessions with a 2018-spec Renault.
However, Alonso hit a road block, or rather a road car, during his physical training when he rammed a vehicle while cycling near his home in Switzerland.
The 32-time Grand Prix winner suffered a fractured jaw during the tumble, a lucky outcome according to Alonso.
"I was lucky in the end," he admitted. "I tell you that I was worried in the moment that it happened, because I’d been waiting all [of] the second part of last year, and obviously you’re preparing for the team presentation and the first test, and then suddenly you find yourself in a hospital after a bike accident – and you don’t know how long it’s going to take to recover.
"Luckily the first answer from the doctors was that in ten days or one week I should be ready to go, so I had to stay at home for one week with not much activity, but after that I was perfectly fine."
Alonso will seize any opportunity that may come his way this year to snatch a podium, but race wins on merit will likely only become feasible in 2022 following F1's regulation overhaul.
"We understand that this year it's going to be not possible because the regulations are a little bit different, but basically the same as previous years so I don't see any miracle happening there," he said.
"But I think 2022 there's a chance with the new regulations of mixing a little bit the order of the grid, and we want to be one of those teams that surprise everybody and to do that we need to work hard in this year."