Two-time F1 champion Alonso rolled back the years in his first sessions for new team Aston Martin to go fastest during practice on Friday, ahead of the Red Bulls.
Alonso’s impressive run was confirmation of the rumours throughout winter that Aston Martin would deliver a package to become Red Bull’s main threat in the early stages of 2023.
“They are quick,” Verstappen admitted. “But you could see already in testing that they are very competitive.
“They had a great day. For us? We still have work to do.
“We know that we have a competitive car but we have to put all the details together.”
Verstappen is aiming for a third straight F1 title and said about his first run of the new year: “Difficult start of the day. FP1 was really bad, I just couldn’t get a balance. Which was odd because in testing… okay, not everything we tested was amazing, but it wasn’t that far out.
“There are a few things to understand. Even the start of FP2 was a bit difficult.
“We didn’t have a good reference or confidence until then, but the short run lap wasn’t bad.
“In the long run, with all the changes we made, I was quite surprised at the pace we had. The car isn’t bad in the long run.
“I just need to find my rhythm again with the car, and how it runs from short to long run.”
Sergio Perez went fastest in FP1 then third-fastest behind Alonso and Verstappen in FP2, before saying: “The only representative session [was the afternoon].
“We have got some work to do over one lap which will automatically put us in better shape for the long run.
“We explored the car today. We have a good idea which direction to go in tomorrow.
“I had issues, I was playing around with my steering wheel.”
Alonso will duel with the Red Bull duo again on Saturday in qualifying.