Verstappen holds an 18-point advantage in the drivers’ championship and has won four races to Hamilton’s three across the opening eight events of what is scheduled to be a 23-round campaign. 

Two-time world champion Alonso, who battled Hamilton for the world title when they were teammates at McLaren in 2007, welcomed the challenge to Hamilton’s recent superiority in F1 and sees Verstappen as the favourite.

"It is very interesting from the outside to follow and watch,” the Alpine driver said. “At least we don't have like previous years that it was Lewis against Lewis and sometimes Valtteri [Bottas], but not often. 

“So at the moment we have a more interesting championship so we can follow with a little more adrenaline until Abu Dhabi. That's a good thing.

"Favourite at the moment probably is Max, because he is performing better,” the Spaniard added. 

“But things can change quickly depending on the performance of the teams and the updates to the car etc. So we will follow from a distance.”

In an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca, Alonso revealed he had held talks with Red Bull before eventually making his return to F1 with Alpine this year.

Alonso spoke about the prospect of one day driving alongside Verstappen in the same team, though he doubts the opportunity will ever arise in F1.

“Probably we still have an opportunity in the future,” Alonso said. “Maybe not in Formula 1, honestly because I don’t think that’s a possibility.

“But in the future, who knows? I think both of us love racing and endurance racing and Le Mans and many things, so it will be nice one day to share a team.”

Asked if he could imagine driving against Alonso at the same team, Verstappen replied: “Of course it would have been incredibly exciting to be together in one team. 

“But like he says there are lots of opportunities outside F1 as well. It would be quite cool I think.”