Alonso explains Verstappen 'not British' remarks

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Alpine F1 Team with Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in qualifying parc ferme. 05.06.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 6, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan, Qualifying Day. - www.xp
© XPB 

Fernando Alonso has been called upon to explain his controversial comments that it would be harder for Max Verstappen to win the world championship because of his nationality.

“He is not British, so it will always be more difficult for him,” Alonso had said before last weekend's race, when questioned about the fallout from the pair's first lap clash at the start of the British Grand Prix.

"I feel probably what they are experiencing now, especially Max, because he's the younger guy fighting with a legend, with a champion," he added.

Given the chance to follow-up his original comment, Alonso said that it was a reflection on how he sees Formula 1 as an inherently British sport and that drivers from other countries didn't get the same level of media support.

“I have the impression always that when things get a little bit spicy or tense in the title fight, this sport, it is a British environment," he told the media in Budapest.

“The teams are British, most of the journalists and media attention, TV crews, everyone comes from the UK," he pointed out. "Understandably there is a little bit of preference on the guy from your country."

Alonso was possibly reflecting on his experience at McLaren in 2007 when he and Hamilton were briefly team mates.

When Hamilton quickly emerged as a serious threat to win the title in his rookie season, Alonso says it felt as though everyone was taking the Briton's side.

“It is what I felt when I was racing and it seems I was the bad guy in Formula 1 when I was trying to fight against normally British guys," he suggested.

Alonso has since reconciled with Hamilton and the pair are now good friends off-track. But the media response to the Verstappen/Hamilton collision at the start of the British GP brought back some vivid memories.

“When I saw the Silverstone thing, or when I see Verstappen get some questions etc., I understand his position, for sure.”

Alonso was arguably the "good guy" when it came to 2005 and 2006, the two years when he clinched the F1 world championship. That was over Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, the German driver having previously ruffled British feathers by beating home favourite Damon Hill in 1994 and 1995.

The Spaniard did have a fierce on-track battle with Hamilton in Hungary, holding him up long enough to ensure his Alpine team mate Esteban Ocon secured his maiden Grand Prix victory.

Alonso himself finished in fourth (subject to Aston Martin's appeal for Sebastian Vettel's disqualification over a fuel irregularity), and he admits he still hates losing just as much as he ever did.

"It’s a good question. I’ve asked myself that, but I think that no, I still can’t take it," he replied when asked if he found losing any easier to handle now he's turned 40.

"But what happens is that at this moment I am not in a position to finish second or in a position to fight," he added. “If I were in Mercedes or Red Bull and the one winning was the other team, I would be a volcano.

"If you are not in that position, you’ve got different goals in mind, more realistic goals for each weekend," he explained. “Maybe it is to finish eighth, maybe it is to make it to Q3

"You’ve got these little goals. But whenever I am not in Formula 1 and I am doing any other activity, the volcano is still there. Even if it’s playing tennis or ping-pong, it doesn’t change,”

All things considered, Alonso seems happier and more comfortable with life in F1 than at any time in the past and has no immediate plans to retire from the sport for a second time.

"I am enjoying it. I am having fun and I am also enjoying the activities that happen away from the track, which is something that I would have never thought."

He added that he would stay in the seat "as long as I am having fun and being competitive."

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