Fernando Alonso has dismissed assertions that he would have been World Champion in a Mercedes, saying instead that his Alpine team should be capable of fighting for top honours in F1.
Before Max Verstappen won the 2021 F1 Drivers' Championship, Mercedes had taken a clean sweep of every available title since 2014.
By contrast, Alonso's last win came at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, and the Spaniard left F1 in 2018 following a disastrous four-year stint in a series of uncompetitive McLarens.
After two years in the World Endurance Championship with Toyota, Alonso returned to F1 in 2021 with Alpine, but the A521 was not regularly competitive and he finished only 10th in the Drivers' standings.
Although Alpine did win last year's Hungarian Grand Prix at the hands of Alonso's teammate, Esteban Ocon, that victory came in a race of heavy attrition and changeable conditions.
In more conventional races, the French squad regularly only had the sixth-fastest car.
Would Alonso be World Champion in a Mercedes?
At the age of 40, Alonso remains widely considered one of the world's best drivers, prompting observers such as Martin Brundle to suggest that he would have added to his two World Championship titles in 2005 and 2006 had he been piloting a Mercedes in recent years.
However, Alonso rejected such a notion, and suggested instead that Alpine should be able to compete at the front as F1 enters a new era of technical regulations in 2022.
"With a new set of regulations that started this year, Alpine should be capable of fighting for the championship, and that's why we are here and why we work so hard," Alonso told media including RacingNews365.com.
"There is the budget cap in place, there are other things that F1 went into [with the new regulations].
"I think there is a possibility for everyone, and that is why Alpine and Groupe Renault, in general, are here."
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A stronger Bahrain test for Alpine and Alonso
Alpine struggled at F1's first 2022 pre-season test in Barcelona, ending up only eighth-fastest overall and losing a lot of running when a hydraulic leak on Alonso's car led to a fire.
The team enjoyed a stronger second test at the Bahrain International Circuit, the venue for next weekend's season opener, with Ocon briefly topping the timesheets and both drivers racking up plenty of laps.
Alonso himself finished the final day of testing in third place, having set his best time on the Soft C4 compound in the last 30 minutes of running.
F1 Podcast: All you need to know after the second pre-season test
At the end of the first pre-season test of 2022 in Barcelona,
Dieter Rencken and Thomas Maher discuss the on- and off-track
developments in Bahrain.