Max Verstappen warned he faces ‘very strong’ challenge for F1 title… but not from Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes

TWO-TIME Formula One champion Emerson Fittipaldi has warned Max Verstappen he could face a “very strong” challenge to his title bid.

Verstappen cruised to victory at the season opener in Bahrain, with team-mate Sergio Perez a comfortable second.

The Mega AgencyMax Verstappen cruised to victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix[/caption]

But he has been warned he faces ‘very strong’ oppositionRex

Complete F1 2023 race calendar – details on every Grand Prix this year

Everything thus far points to another easy championship for the flying Dutchman.

However, competition could come from an unusual source this season.

Aston Martin‘s Fernando Alonso claimed the final podium spot at the race.

And Fittipaldi, who won the 1972 and 1974 F1 titles, has warned Alonso could pose the biggest challenge of the season.

Speaking to VegasInsider, Fittipaldi said: “Fernando Alonso’s podium was an unexpected one.

“I think the Aston Martin’s performance even surprised Fernando and everyone in the team.

“If you look at the mid-corners and slow-speed corners, Fernando was able to have different lines than the competitors. That means he had extra some grip there.”

“When he overtook, he was very manoeuvrable on the slow, mid-speed corners. That means the car has a very good grip and handling.”


Emerson Fittipaldi reckons Fernando Alonso could put up the biggest fight this seasonRex

“Lance Stroll was quick. With all the problems he’s had, he was running very strong, very quickly.”

“That means they’ll be a challenge in this year’s Championship. No doubt.”

Over the last decade, Red Bull have duked out titles mainly with Mercedes and Ferrari.

However, the regulation changes which came into effect last year saw Lewis Hamilton‘s team dramatically drop off the pace of the front of the order.

Meanwhile, consistency issues in both strategy and reliability have ensured Ferrari have not truly been able to compete on race day.

Therefore, in 2023, Alonso and Aston Martin could pose the most significant threat to Verstappen achieving a three-peat.

An incredible omen also suggests Alonso could land his third title before Verstappen, with the winner of the opening race in the last six years NOT going on to win the championship.

Though the legality of the Aston Martin has now been openly questioned.

PALewis Hamilton is not likely to challenge this season[/caption]