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Max Verstappen backs Fernando Alonso for more podiums in 2023 | 'I hope he wins'

Fernando Alonso finished third place in the Bahrain Grand Prix after battling past George Russell, Lewis Hamilton, and Carlos Sainz; Max Verstappen, who won the race, believes race wins are "definitely on the table" for Alonso in 2023

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Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso climbed to fifth after a fantastic tussle with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen believes race wins are "definitely on the table" for Fernando Alonso after his spectacular display at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Alonso, debuting for Aston Martin, fought back from dropping two places on the opening lap in some fashion, getting ahead of George Russell on Lap 13 before sneaking past Lewis Hamilton at Turn 10 after a thrilling multiple-lap battle.

The three-time world champion then went after Carlos Sainz's Ferrari to secure his second podium from the last seven years and add weight to the hype that Aston Martin are real contenders for race wins in 2023.

Race winner Verstappen believes that the introduction of Aston Martin to the battle at the front of the grid is a positive for the 2023 season and "hopes" that it will help Alonso on his way to a first race win since 2013.

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Fernando Alonso analyses his race performance which saw the Aston Martin driver earn his first podium of the season.

"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," said Verstappen.

"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.

"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.

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Fernando Alonso made yet another overtake as the Aston Martin driver usurped fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz for third.

"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 because sometimes they 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.

"But for sure they have a really strong package. And now of course it's all about developing it further."

Red Bull's Sergio Perez, who came home in second for a perfect one-two finish for the team, has also heralded Alonso's "tremendous effort".

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Lance Stroll hit Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix, while Max Verstappen held on to the lead from Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

"I'm first of all very happy to see Aston and Fernando up here," said Perez.

"I think it's been a tremendous effort and it's great to see Fernando in his first race for the team on the podium. I think they certainly have a very good car.

"They will be a contender for sure in a few tracks. You know that the seasons in Formula 1 are extremely long, so anything can happen. So yeah, it's just nice to see Fernando and Aston."

What's next?

The Formula 1 2023 season continues with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from the sport's fastest street track in Jeddah.

The action is all live on Sky Sports F1 from March 17-19, with Sunday's race at 5pm.

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