All the talk in pre-season testing is about Fernando Alonso’s AMR23, but the double World Champion says it will take a few races for Aston Martin to fully exploit the car’s potential.
Aston Martin has been the talk of the Bahrain paddock over the course of pre-season testing, Alonso finishing the opening two days inside the top three while reserve driver Felipe Drugovich was third fastest on Saturday morning.
It has rivals proclaiming the Silverstone team has taken the biggest step forward with one unnamed engineer revealing that based on their calculations, Aston Martin are “at least fourth and could even pose a threat to Mercedes and Ferrari.”
But it’s not just the pace that has caught the eye with George Russell saying the car “makes a well-balanced impression”.
Alonso, though, has warned there’s more to come.
According to the Spaniard, Aston Martin have only just began to understand the AMR23 and he reckons it will take a “few races” for them to truly exploit the car’s potential.
“I think we are still discovering things on the car,” he told the media including PlanetF1.com.
“Last year Aston Martin was struggling with the car and we changed the philosophy completely, 95 percent of the car this year is new, and so I think we are just experimenting a bit with different set-ups and different things the last few days.
“Hopefully we’ll put it altogether, but we’ll need time, we’ll need a few races to really exploit the full potential of the car because there is no time now with only three days to really go through all the test items we want.”
The Spaniard hopes that with a good 2023 car, Aston Martin will be able to carry that work through to 2024 rather than having to start almost from scratch again.
“That was the aim,” he said. “Last year’s platform was not good enough.
“I think with this new one we have a car that we can develop throughout the season and we can use not only five percent of this car next year, we can use more and that helps the team for some continuity.”
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But not everyone is buying into the Aston Martin hype.
Alonso’s former team-mate Esteban Ocon reckons the margins can swing by as much as five seconds depending on fuel loads and engine modes.
And if everyone is going to talk up Aston Martin, what about that Williams.
“I think it’s early days to really give conclusion,” said the Alpine driver.
“With those cars, it’s so easy to go from five seconds slower to five seconds quicker in one go, so… it’s difficult to exactly tell, the fuel loads, the energy management and what engine mode you run.
“They look for sure competitive at the moment, but the Williams also look competitive. I think it’s going to be a close fight, like it always is.”
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher