Esteban Ocon believes he would be able to beat Max Verstappen in a championship showdown if Alpine can become a race-winning team.
The Frenchman progressed through the junior championships alongside Verstappen and beat the Dutchman to the 2014 European Formula 3 Championship.
Their on-track duels have been rare since: Verstappen's Red Bull career has yielded two World Championships and 35 Grands Prix wins, whilst Ocon only took his maiden F1 win at last season's Hungarian GP.
In an interview with Dutch publication NOS, Ocon was asked about his current relationship with Verstappen, with the pair having come to blows after the 2019 Brazilian GP following a collision between the two.
"We get along fine now and have a lot of respect for each other. I wish him all the best," Ocon responded.
"He is simply a super talent now. Max is always and everywhere competitive and has been for years.
"I've known it since I was a kid. Ever since karting he dominated championships. After that, he was fast in every car he was in."
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Ocon: I have to believe in myself
When asked about Verstappen's recent championship success, Ocon commented that Verstappen's championship triumphs were a testimony to their generation of drivers who came through to F1.
"His world titles are richly deserved," lauded Ocon.
"Last year I already thought so and this year he is putting in a top season. I'm proud that a driver I grew up with is emerging like this.
"Max is a shining representative of my generation. He is one of the greats of this sport."
When discussing his own championship aspirations, Ocon added that he believed he would be able to compete against Verstappen in equal machinery.
"I am convinced of that, and I have to [be]. If you don't believe in yourself, you are already hopeless in this sport," commented Ocon.
"I have a contract until the end of 2024 and this team is going to do everything it can to close the gap to the top. I have confidence in that and am fully committed.
"I'm not driving here to compete, but I'm growing every weekend. Moreover, the gaps between the teams will become smaller and smaller in the coming years."
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