MAX VERSTAPPEN has tipped Fernando Alonso to challenge for race wins this season.
The Aston Martin driver claimed his 99th career podium with an impressive drive at the Formula One season opener in Bahrain.
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The Silverstone-based team surprised many by topping the time charts in testing and in free practice ahead of the race.
And this quick pace has seen Verstappen tip Alonso to rival him for a spot at the top of the podium.
Verstappen said: "I hope so for Fernando as well because he has had a few years where there was not really a possibility to fight at the front so I'm happy to see him sitting here already in race one.
"I think also again, I mentioned it before, but at Aston Martin, they really have the spirit and drive, they want to win and they've hired a lot of good people.
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"So I guess it can only get better for them. And I think for this year, difficult to say if they're going to challenge for the championship, but race wins are definitely on the table."
However, the Dutchman thinks the race wins will be limited for Alonso, and compared his time racing against Lewis Hamilton during his dominance.
Verstappen added: "I've been in the same position where some races I'm finishing 20 to 40 seconds behind the winners and you still win two or three races a year.
"Sometimes there are some tracks which really suit your car and everything just comes together and you can win a race with maybe sometimes a bit of help or luck.
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"But for sure they (Aston Martin) have a really strong package. And now of course it's all about developing it further."
Two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi has also backed Alonso to produce a "very strong" title challenge.
Alonso is already a two-time world champion, winning titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006.
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