‘Mercedes need a big step before Bahrain to solidify third ahead of Aston Martin’

Michelle Foster
Mercedes pit stop practice with Lewis Hamilton. Bahrain February 2023

Mercedes pit stop practice with Lewis Hamilton. Bahrain February 2023

As pre-season numbers continue to read favourably for Aston Martin, Ted Kravitz reckons Mercedes need to make a “big step” before the Bahrain Grand Prix in order to hold the green team at bay.

Aston Martin had a strong pre-season, the Silverstone team showing not only a quick car but one that seems to handle well.

It has rivals talking up Fernando Alonso’s chances of taking the fight to Mercedes, perhaps even Ferrari. But how much of that is talk and how much genuinely reflects the performance out on track? Because no-one knows the exact fuel loads or engine modes any of the teams ran at any given moment in testing.

Overall, though, it does look as if the Aston Martin AMR23, a “bold and aggressive” design according to the team, has at the very least closed the gap to the front runners.

But has it made inroads?

“I’ve got Aston Martin third and potentially even a little bit closer to Ferrari,” Kravitz told Sky Sports F1. “That’s to do with Fernando Alonso’s race run.

“In Saturday’s Bahrain GP [long runs] such as it was, it would have been Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso on the podium ahead of the Ferraris and the Mercedes.

“Aston Martin had Red Bull worried from Day One, Adrian Newey (Red Bull’s chief technical officer) mentioned them in the teams he’s concerned about, the car is essentially good, it has some nice ideas. Alonso’s race run on Saturday was *chef’s kiss*.

“I’m going to be slightly reticent and say that Aston Martin are third and Mercedes are fourth at the moment.

“We need to see a big step from Mercedes over the next few days for them to be solidly third.”

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The Sky Sports man has a mixed take on Mercedes’ pre-season as while Hamilton was second fastest on the overall timesheet, and Mercedes have resolved a large part of their porpoising problems, there are still balance issues with the W14.

“When Hamilton came out and said that the porpoising was largely gone but some of the ‘balance limitations’ of last year’s car are still present, I couldn’t believe it,” Kravitz said.

“I thought, hang on, this is the Mercedes that is supposed to be okay but they’re still suffering from the problems they had last year.”

Even Mercedes are said to be worried Aston Martin have edged ahead of them, perhaps even Ferrari too.

“According to our calculations, the Aston Martin could end up in second place,” Toto Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport.

Right now it’s all just estimating

If is of course pre-season testing, that cannot be stressed enough.

Nobody is going all out for a glory lap and if they are, they aren’t saying. That would be giving the game away.

The timesheet read Red Bull, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Ferrari and we can safely say that won’t be the top five on next Sunday’s grid, and it almost definitely won’t be the top five come the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

No-one knows for sure what’s going on, they can make educated guesses, but it’s still just that, a guess.

It is fair to say that Aston Martin are looking, the team most likely to challenge the top three. But whether they genuinely can, well we’ll know more next weekend.

George Russell has all but ruled the team out of fighting for the win next Sunday, saying: “We want to have a car capable of getting in that fight” but “whether we’re going to have that next weekend in Bahrain, I think may be a bit of a stretch.”