Aston Martin ambassador and ex-F1 driver Pedro de la Rosa believes Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso are equally matched in qualifying and race trim ahead of the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix.
Alonso was within two tenths of the world champion in FP2 and was on par with Verstappen on the long runs, raising hopes of an epic duel between the pair in different machinery.
Aston Martin have emerged as the nearest challenger to Red Bull this season but have so far failed to realistically challenge for a race win.
But could that all be about to change at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya? Looking closer at the lap times of the two drivers, De la Rosa thinks so.
“He [Alonso] lifted a bit at the end, yes, but looking at the telemetry it was a great lap,” De la Rosa told DAZN.
“The car is not as nervous as in the first run with softs. And not least, on the next lap he set a 1:14.2, which shows that there are still no graining problems, not even in Montmelo, which is very abrasive.
“In pure performance, that long tenth is won by Max in the first sector, on the long finishing straight, on his DRS. Because the second sector is identical (0.002s in favour of Max) and the third the same (0.011s in favour of Fernando).”
‘It’s so close over one lap’
Following FP2, Alonso admitted he wasn’t putting much stock into the lap times yet, given how condensed the chasing pack was.
Less than two tenths behind the Spaniard was his countryman Carlos Sainz in seventh, showing how costly an error could prove come qualifying.
He did add, however, how pleased he was with the upgrades Aston Martin brought to Spain.
“It’s so close over one lap that I think a couple of tenths will put you in a completely different position in the classification, so we won’t read too much into the times,” Alonso added.
“There is not a new part that we put on the car that is not helping the performance. Happy with the upgrades so let’s see tomorrow when everyone goes to full power where we are.”
Have the stars aligned?
Should Alonso deny Red Bull their first win of the season, it would be his first victory since this race 10 years ago and the 33rd of his distinguished career.
This weekend’s GP also represents the Spaniard’s 362nd start, meaning he’ll have taken to the grid for exactly 33.3% of races in F1’s history, while he is in pit box No. 33.
This is all likely to be nothing more than pure coincidence, of course, but it might take something out of the ordinary to end the dominance of Red Bull in 2023.