Fernando Alonso made a tongue-in-cheek joke at Sergio Perez’s expense as he weighed up the pecking order of the top cars in Melbourne.
Alonso finished in third place at Albert Park, having spent almost the entirety of his race attempting to hunt down Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
While a tangle with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz looked to have doomed Alonso to a pointless day after being tagged by his compatriot on a red flag restart, Alonso was handed a reprieve when, with carnage all around on track, the FIA opted to red flag the race once again and reset the order back to the previous start.
There were no dramas on the final run to the chequered flag behind the Safety Car, with Alonso clinching his third consecutive podium finish.
However, for the first time in 2023, a car other than a Red Bull finished ahead of Alonso with Hamilton coming home in second. Asked about whether he felt Mercedes are coming back into contention after a slow start to the season, Alonso took the opportunity to poke fun at the Red Bull camp’s allusions to how the Aston Martin is essentially an ‘old Red Bull’ following the departure of Red Bull aerodynamicist Dan Fallows to become technical director at Aston Martin.
Perez had joked in Bahrain about him, Max Verstappen, and Fernando Alonso ‘all being Red Bull drivers’ and that ‘it was nice to see three Red Bull cars on the podium!’
“No more three Red Bulls on the podium, if Checo was here,” Alonso remarked.
“But no, I think Mercedes were also strong in Jeddah, to be honest. I think all race on Sunday, I was within one-tenth of George [Russell], you know, fighting to get this extra five seconds or whatever at the end. So it was very, very close.”
Fernando Alonso wary of upgrade schedule having impact
Alonso believes that, having gotten the first three flyaway races out of the way, the complexion of the battle for the podium could change as teams roll out their upgrades throughout the European season.
“It seems that qualifying is quite important now, because the race pace is very similar,” he said.
“I think now we enter a part of the season that is going to be very interesting, which team is developing their car faster. In the first three races away from Europe, it is difficult to bring upgrades and things like that.
“But, from now on, maybe we’ll 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 still riding high of making jump to the front
But, despite the expectations at Aston Martin perhaps being reset as a result of such a strong start to the season, Alonso said that any good results are being taken as a bonus by his new team as they adjust to life near the front of F1.
“For us, it’s all happy days at the moment,” he said.
“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.
“Third and fourth is a lot of points. So 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. We are just on a learning process, so we take this 2023 in a very humble manner and let’s see how it goes.”