Fernando Alonso has said he did not expect Aston Martin to bring such a competitive car to the grid for the 2023 F1 season, as the Spaniard qualified fifth for the season opening Bahrain GP.
Alonso had looked impressive throughout testing at the Bahrain International Circuit and testing, as the Aston Martin car looked to have taken a significant step forward following a lacklustre performance in 2022.
While predictions that the two-time champion could challenge for pole failed to materialise, with Max Verstappen leading a Red Bull lockout of the front row, the team are still optimistic they can compete at the front with the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 following the session, Alonso said that it was beyond his expectations that Aston Martin are seemingly competitive with teams which were lapping them last year.
“It was amazing. I mean, the whole weekend has been unreal for us. It was like too good to be true every session and every performance of the car. And then in qualifying, our expectation was to be around half a second from Red Bull,” he said.
“And I think we have half a second to six tenths from pole position. And so it was quite right.
“I don’t know even what to say, because eight months ago, the project was just a bet, but now to be P1 (in practice) with a completely new car, which I think we need still to unlock a lot of potential to be in the top five.
“Fighting with Ferrari Mercedes, it seems a little bit unreal, but we will take it for sure.”
More to come
Alonso added that he expected the team to continue to develop the car throughout the season, but cautioned it remained to be seen how the team performs at tracks which pose a different challenge to the Bahrain International Circuit.
“I’m sure we need to wait for Jeddah, Australia, very different tracks. So I’m curious to see if we can keep this form in different circuits,” he said.
“But also on the other hand, I think the car that we have now is just a very basic car that we launched.
“And we will start the season with this completely new concept on the car. So I think there is a lot more to come in terms of development with this project. So I’m optimistic for that.