Fernando Alonso never expected to start P5 on Aston Martin debut

Jamie Woodhouse
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, is happy. Bahrain, March 2023.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, happy in the paddock. Bahrain, March 2023.

Fernando Alonso is preparing to launch from P5 in Bahrain for his first race with Aston Martin, lofty heights beyond his wildest dreams.

When Alonso made the switch from Alpine to Aston Martin, he joined a team with ambitions of eventually challenging at the front of the pack, but having topped FP2 and FP3 in Bahrain, anticipation mounted that Alonso could even be a pole contender.

“That was too optimistic,” Alonso told Sky F1 after qualifying.

However, Aston Martin did believe that they could crack the top six and get within six-tenths of Red Bull come the end of the first qualifying of F1 2023.

The first part of that mission was achieved, Alonso securing P5 on the grid, while part two was realised as well, with Alonso 0.628s adrift of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who claimed pole.

“I think our aim was to be in the top five, top six, at the beginning of the weekend it was to put both cars in Q3, and I think our expectations were to be 0.5 or 0.6 [seconds] from Red Bull,” Alonso added.

“And I think the pole position is around that time, what we are missing, so I think that we expected this position and I’m certainly happy.”

But, while Alonso matched expectations on Saturday in Bahrain, these were expectations which he could never have dreamt of having at the first attempt with his new team.

“I’m very surprised,” Alonso replied when asked if he saw this coming.

“I believe in the project, and I think all the technical department, the design group, they’re very talented, new facilities coming, so I felt Aston Martin will be a contender in the future.

“But I thought it will take some time, maybe in the first season to develop the car, the new project, but this car is a very basic car that we launched and you know, it’s just the baseline of the platform to develop future cars. So, I think to start in the top five, race one, it was unexpected for everybody.”

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Of course the here and now though is to tackle the Bahrain Grand Prix, and while the AMR23 looked strong over one lap, now Alonso believes that this challenger is heading into its comfort zone on Sunday, that being performing over a race distance.

And so, he fully intends on scrapping with Mercedes and Ferrari to secure a podium finish.

“I mean, the strength of the car has been the long run so far, very low degradation,” said Alonso.

“Historically Aston Martin was also taking care of the tyres very good, but again, it sounded too good for me to say that tomorrow you’re starting P5.

“We aim to fight for the podium, because we’re in the mix with Ferrari and Mercedes, and this sounds unreal at the moment.”