(Motorsport) After the 2022 season, nobody would have predicted that Aston Martin would be ahead of Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes, not just in pre-season testing but also in the opening Grand Prix of 2023. Veteran Fernando Alonso finished third behind reigning champion Max Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Perez. Just 12 months ago, Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenburg (replacing Sebastian Vettel as he was ill) were eliminated in Q1 ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix and finished the race itself outside the points.
From being a midfield runner to possibly competing for the title, Aston Martin have revolutionised the AMR23 and could possibly have the third or even second fastest car with one of the most experienced drivers on the grid. Fernando Alonso had downplayed expectations before the race began but word from Silverstone suggests that Aston Martin have been quietly confident about their chances and believe they have the right drivers and team to show just how much they have progressed since last year.
When the AMR23 was unveiled in February, Aston Martin technical director Dan Fallows said that their 2023 challenger was 95% different that the 2022 version and the team had adopted a “bold and aggressive” approach in their development. Aston Martin have a 2.411 second improvement in their lap times compared to last season, a staggering amount and more than double that of 2nd place Williams who are at 1.203 seconds.
In an interview, Fernando Alonso said “I think the most important point is that the new Aston Martin is just a new car, a new project. This is just the beginning. This is not the final car, this is just the starting car of this concept that we changed over winter. I think some of the top teams just kept the philosophy that they had last year. Red Bull or Ferrari kept more of the same shapes – just fine-tuning things and making perfection of that good baseline that they had. We had to change 95 per cent of the car. So, I guess there is more to learn from the car, and there is more to come on our side.”
He added: “It’s the perfect start for this project. We didn’t expect to be that competitive. The aim in 2023 was to be in the mix in the midfield, maybe leading the midfield and getting close to the top three teams eventually. Even a podium was maybe even not on the radar in 2023, and we’ve found ourselves with the second-best car in Bahrain over the whole weekend. It’s a bit of a surprise, but we are extremely happy with the job done at Silverstone in the factory, so let’s enjoy this moment and build from here.”