Fernando Alonso has claimed Aston Martin were “slightly faster” than Ferrari in race trim during pre-season testing, as preparations for the Bahrain Grand Prix ramp up.
Aston Martin roundly impressed during the three days of testing around Bahrain, with Alonso showing plenty of pace and reliability behind the wheel of the AMR23.
While testing times are famously not fully indicative of exactly where teams stand in the pecking order, the consensus among the teams is that Aston Martin have taken a big step forward compared to their position from last year, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner saying Alonso looked “very competitive” from the off.
It’s not yet known exactly where Alonso and Aston Martin will stand heading into the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, but the two-time World Champion believes he could end up right among the frontrunners, if his full race simulation on Saturday was anything to go by.
Speaking at a promotional event for Aston Martin after testing, Alonso was optimistic about what the team’s long-run pace had in store for them, explaining: “On the last test day, for example, we did a race simulation. Then we did 57 laps, the same thing we are going to do this week in Bahrain.
“We put fuel in for those 57 laps and did the full race with the full set-up, even changing tyres. At the same time, Ferrari were doing the same programme as us with the same fuel for the race, same stops – and we were slightly faster.”
There is a chance Alonso will have reserve driver Felipe Drugovich alongside him in the car this weekend, with the Formula 2 champion having filled in for the injured Lance Stroll during testing.
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The team confirmed Stroll remains their “Plan A” option for the season opener, but also announced Drugovich would be the Canadian’s replacement if he is unable to recover in time to take part in the race after a recent bicycle accident.
Alonso thinks he and the team missed out on the feedback his team-mate could offer during testing, with the help he could give in pointing the team in a particular direction with the AMR23, as the person who will be alongside Alonso full-time this season.
“We missed him, because some of my comments and my feelings about the car, we never knew if it was just me in a new team and a new car, or is it an Aston Martin thing that Lance could have spotted,” Alonso explained.
“We cannot do it without him so I hope he can come back very soon.”