Max Verstappen, full-time Dutchman and Formula 1 hobbyist (we kid) served two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso a rather backhanded compliment after qualifying at the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old Red Bull driver and reigning World Champion secured pole position (and ultimately won) the race while Alonso qualified second: the 40-year-old Spanish Alpine driver’s first front-row start since the 2012 German Grand Prix.
Verstappen was quick to congratulate Alonso on his impressive quali performance, but in a later interview, threw a bit of shade on the Spaniard, saying “Of course Fernando is getting a bit old but he’s still very fast. I know he starts very well so I have to be ready.”
Rude, or just very Dutch? We’re not sure. Alonso wasn’t fazed, rebutting “I think we’ll attack Max on the first corner,” offering a wink to the fans.
In the end, Alonso finished 9th, copping a time penalty for weaving that would have otherwise seen him nab 7th. (He also copped a penalty point on his super license.) It was his 5th points finish of the year – not the podium finish he may have been hoping for but a reasonable effort regardless. His teammate, 25-year-old Frenchman Esteban Ocon, finished 6th.
Still, Alonso’s strong qualifying performance isn’t to be sniffed at, considering his longevity in the sport and being the oldest on the grid by a fair margin. Indeed, virtually all the drivers on the grid – as well as the enthusiastic crowd at Montréal – were pretty excited to see Alonso qualify so highly.
F1 is increasingly a young man’s game. Indeed, Verstappen started driving in the sport at the age of 17 – he was in F1 before he could drive a road car! Most of the sport’s top drivers, like Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly, are all well under 30 and the average age of F1 drivers is decreasing every year.
That Alonso remains competitive in F1 despite his age is rather impressive. The next oldest driver on the grid is seven-time World Champion and unequivocal GOAT, Lewis Hamilton – who also shows little signs of slowing down, despite his somewhat rocky performance so far this season.
To this date, Alonso remains the only Spanish F1 driver to have won either a Grand Prix or the World Championship. That said, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. is an exceptionally talented driver and very likely to win a Grand Prix this year – we’ll just have to wait and see.