Although rivals have been talking up Aston Martin as genuine contenders, Fernando Alonso admits they’ll need time to haul in the big three who were in “another league” last season.
Aston Martin with their bold and aggressive AMR23 was the team that caught the eye during pre-season testing, the car showing impressive race-pace and minimal tyre degradation.
It has pundits and rivals alike predicting Aston Martin will be in the hunt this season, some reports claiming the AMR23 could even be ahead of the Mercedes’ W14, maybe even the Ferrari.
“According to our calculations, the Aston Martin could end up in second place,” Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport.
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz believes they will be genuine contenders from the very first race of the championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“Yes we do,” he told the media including PlanetF1.com. “Mainly because since December everybody has heard rumours that Aston Martin will be quick.
“This year we know their numbers were very good in the wind tunnel, the simulator, I think they were struggling to hide the excitement of what they were seeing.
“They arrived to the Bahrain [test] and it confirmed they’re in the mix with us and I think it’s great news for F1, great news for Fernando. Excited to have one more team in the [lead] battle.”
His team-mate Charles Leclerc agrees, saying: “I think they will be in the mix, they will fight at the top at least I think.”
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Alonso, though, has downplayed all the hype surrounding Aston Martin.
Although he has declared that the team is “very happy” with the car, he acknowledges that the the top three were in “another league” last season.
As such he admits it will take time for Aston Martin to haul them in.
“There is nothing really to say,” he said. “We’ll give our best on the race. But there’s no target for us.
“I think we need to keep learning about the car, only had two days of testing in a completely new car and package, and I think the top three teams they were in another league last year.
“They were lapping sometimes even the fourth team and basically only seven cars finished on the same lap so we cannot make that kind of step in only one week.”
“But,” he added, “I think we’re very happy with the car. Keep our feet on the ground and keep working.”
He added: “The aim with this car was to make a step forward which I think we did. The results of the test were very encouraging and the feeling of the car but this is just the start.
“This car will change dramatically during the season, that’s the plan.
“I heard from the team that two thirds of this car will change during the season. So we want to have a good baseline, a good platform to develop the car during 2023 and maybe fight for something bigger next year.
“[We’ll take it] step by step.”
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher