Fernando Alonso senses F1 pecking order change as upgrades ramp up

Jamie Woodhouse
Fernando Alonso on the pit wall. Bahrain February 2023.

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso stands on the pit wall during testing. Bahrain February 2023.

With the start of F1 2023 upgrade season approaching, Fernando Alonso reckons this is where the boat could be rocked with the early pecking order.

The almighty start which Red Bull has made to F1 2023 already has many fearing that they cannot be caught this year, having taken all three poles and race victories available so far.

Alonso and his Aston Martin team have shown similar consistency in the sense that Alonso has a trio of P3 finishes to start the campaign.

Red Bull and Aston Martin are the top two in the early Constructors’ standings, but with a gap of 58 points separating them already, Aston Martin’s early battles have been with Mercedes, while Ferrari are trying to reverse their decline.

But, with Formula 1 now into a four-week break before the Azerbaijan GP at the end of April, this is when teams will be readying the upgrades which they will bring for their challengers through the Europe-dominated leg of the campaign.

Aston Martin for example have already confirmed that they will introduce a new rear wing in Azerbaijan.

So, we are now reaching the stage of the campaign where Alonso believes we could well start to see the pecking order alter.

“It seems that qualifying is quite important now, because race pace is very similar, and I think now we enter into a part of the season that is going to be very interesting: which team is developing the car faster?” Alonso said in reference to Aston Martin’s battle with Mercedes, as per Motorsport.com.

“I think the first three races being away from Europe, it’s difficult to bring upgrades and things like that. But from now on, maybe we see the level of the teams changing a little bit, race-by-race, depending on who brings an upgrade that is good enough.”

Aston Martin are certainly the most improved team between last season and F1 2023, the P7 finishers in the 2022 Constructors’ standings now second to only Red Bull in the current ranking, and initially they did have the beating of Mercedes for race pace too before the Australian GP bucked that trend.

However, Alonso suggested that his team is not feeling any sort of weight of expectation, instead still treating F1 2023 as something of a “learning process” as they test their in-season development capabilities against big hitters Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.

“It’s all happy days at the moment,” Alonso declared. “We never expected to be on the podium, maybe even throughout the season, and in three races we have three. So, everything that comes now is a plus.

“We take every opportunity and we need to learn and we need to grow as a team also maybe now off-track because we are racing against Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari – teams that are used to this kind of pace of development and things like that.

“Maybe we are just in a learning process. So, we take this 2023 in a very humble manner and let’s see how it’s going.”

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Aston Martin hold an advantage over this trio

By finishing down in P7 last season, it means that Aston Martin hold a sizeable advantage over Mercedes and Ferrari in regards to wind tunnel development time, the sliding scale in place designed to award more time to those teams finishing lower, in a bid to help them close the gap to teams ahead.

And Aston Martin’s biggest buffer of all is over Red Bull, who not only receive the lowest as the 2022 Constructors’ champs, but their allocation was also cut by a further 10 per cent for a minor 2021 cost cap breach.

It means then that while Red Bull are F1’s clear leading force right now, they are the team who are at a disadvantage and in theory could be left trying to hang on as the pack closes up behind.

Aston Martin have shown already just how rapidly they can gain performance, while Mercedes got stronger as the 2022 campaign went on, so it would be unwise to completely rule either team out of creating a multi-team title battle in F1 2023.