Alonso impressed by 'very competitive grid' of drivers but declares 'I'm better!'

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Fernando Alonso is excited by the "very competitive grid" of drivers in Formula 1, even if he still thinks "I'm better!".

After a two-year absence, and 20 years after making his debut with Minardi, the double world champion returns to F1 with Alpine, the new name for Renault, this season.

His comeback though has already been eventful with unhappiness over his inclusion in the young driver test in Abu Dhabi last year, and then Alonso fractured his jaw in a cycling crash in Switzerland just last month.

Despite that, however, he is ready to hit the track in Bahrain for the opening race.

"I’m very excited for the entire weekend," he said. "There has been a lot of preparation for this moment, not only with the team during testing and the work done at both factories over the winter period but also personally.

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"Ever since I agreed to join Alpine F1 Team, I have put a lot of effort in to be both physically and mentally prepared for this season.

"I learnt a lot in my time away from Formula 1, especially all the different styles of racing, but I’m now back in F1 and very motivated for what should be a challenging season ahead.

"It was fun to be back at the wheel of an F1 car for testing, but now I can’t wait to go racing."

Alonso is set to be thrust into an epic midfield battle with Alpine this year, putting him in the mix with the likes of Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo.

And looking at the current talent in F1, the 39-year-old is impressed.

"It’s going to be great, I’m looking forward," he told the BBC. "There are some young, talented guys that have been showing great performance.

"And then we still have the champions. Lewis [Hamilton], Sebastian, Kimi [Räikkonen], [Max] Verstappen – even if he (Max) is one of the young ones, of the younger generation, he has raced at the top level already for four years, five years.

"We have a very competitive grid and it’s going to be a challenge to meet everyone on track."

In typical Alonso fashion though, he still believes he's not only at his best but that he's the best in F1.

"No, I'm better!" he replied, asked if he was as good as Hamilton, Verstappen and Co.

Whether he'll have the chance to prove it is another matter, however, as he realises his performance is limited by the potential of his car.

"We understand that this year it's going to be not possible [to win] because the regulations are a little bit different, but basically the same as previous years so I don't see any miracle happening there," he said.

"But I think 2022 there's a chance with the new regulations of mixing a little bit the order of the grid, and we want to be one of those teams that surprise everybody and to do that we need to work hard in this year."

As for how Alpine and the rest of the grid shapes up, Alonso added: "In terms of performance it’s too early to tell.

"I think we won’t know the true pecking order of the grid until the first qualifying session on Saturday where everyone has low fuel, the fastest tyres fitted and full power from the engine. I expect there will be a few surprises."