Newly crowned world champion Max Verstappen says that Fernando Alonso fully deserves to be back at the top of Formula 1.
The Spanish driver claimed back to back titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006, but has been unable to claim further championships in the time he's since spent with McLaren and Ferrari.
Now back with the rebranded Alpine team after a two year sabbatical away from F1 racing endurance sportscars, a rejuvenated Alonso claimed his first podium since 2014 in Qatar.
Verstappen said that he is hoping this is a sign Alonso will be able to compete at the front of the grid again throughout next season.
"I would like to see him back at the front," the Dutch driver said in an interview for sponsor CarNext last week. "He really deserves it.
"He's a two-time world champion," Verstappen added. "It's also really nice to talk to him and see how he thinks about situations."
Alonso has spoken up in Verstappen's favour at several points this season, suggesting that a British bias in the media meant that Verstappen got harsher coverage in the coverage than Lewis Hamilton.
Alonso also compared it to his own experience going head-to-head with Hamilton during their season together at McLaren in 2007.
"At the moment I have a really good friendship with Fernando," Verstappen said, while admitting that it would probably be a "different story" if Alonso became a serious threat to him on track in 2022.
"When I was still go-karting I really liked his style," he added. "Also that 'never give up' [attitude]. He is a real fighter.
"Unfortunately in the last few years he hasn't been able to do that at the front because he hasn't had the car.
"But I like his attitude, he's really on fire," Verstappen asserted, adding that the 40-year-old Alonso has shown that he still has the "drive and motivation at his age to still be there in Formula 1, wanting to be there for a longer time.
"He always wants to win. He always wants to do the best. For me it's really nice to see."