Van der Zande has Alonso in high regard: ‘He could have caught Leclerc at race pace’

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Renger van der Zande does not think it will be a boring Formula 1 season. Despite the fact that Max Verstappen won the Grand Prix of Bahrain with force majeure, and Sergio Pérez was simply second, Van der Zande has the idea that it can still be very exciting. An example during this first race was the fight between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, which the Dutch racing driver enjoyed.

“I think the best thing about those fights is that Alonso looks four corners ahead,” Van der Zande starts at Ziggo Sport Race Café. In Turn 1, Alonso puts him on the outside, where Hamilton has to defend. Then Alonso is on the inside in the next corner and then on the outside again, then he catches Hamilton four corners later. Alonso is constantly thinking and playing chess with those opponents. It is not the least that he overtakes, Hamilton is also good at it.

“Alonso sends in aggressively”

What is striking about Alonso is the aggressiveness, Van der Zande believes. “He turns in in an aggressive way, which makes that car move and he’s looking in all the mirrors all the time. If you look at the difference between Hamilton and Alonso, I think Hamilton is an all-round driver and Alonso is more of a street fighter, really raw for his material. You can’t actually compare them, they are two different drivers.’

Van der Zande does not expect a boring season. “I think it is very cool that such an Alonso drives forward like a devil out of a box in an Aston Martin. Who expected that? He hadn’t even expected it himself. He was somewhere on the grid and just had to see how it went. Actually he was held up for a long time, because they had problems at the start and was almost run off by his teammate. I think he could have caught Charles Leclerc at race pace.’

Verstappen a few tenths faster in race pace

Not much later, Van der Zande nuanced that a bit. “On race pace, Alonso might not have been able to overtake him, but the race pace was better than Ferrari’s. The nice thing about this season is that sometimes teams qualify in the front and don’t have much of a race pace and teams sometimes qualify in the back and have a really big race pace. I think Max and Checo’s car goes a few tenths faster in race pace. Put Max in a car and he will also put him on pole with a tenth advantage.’

With the upcoming Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, there is a completely different circuit on the calendar. ‘In Bahrain they had tested and everyone knew exactly what to do. But you can’t test in Jeddah. Some are also new to the track and there is different asphalt. If you have more grip, you slide less. Ferrari eats those tyres, so on a low-grip circuit they will have a hard time. Maybe that’s why Jeddah is good, because they don’t slide much, they keep those tires intact’, concludes Van der Zande.

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