Will Aston Martin’s 2023 potential pace allow them to fight at the front? Rivals say yes

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By Fernanda Álvarez

Just days after the end of pre-season testing for Formula 1’s 2023 season, the year of racing is set to kick off in Bahrain as, on Thursday, at media day ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix at Sakhir, drivers were asked about one of the most relevant hot topics of the early part of the year, Aston Martin’s alleged improvement.

After the team was rebranded and finished P7 in the final constructors’ standings over the past two years, the Silverstone-based team made the headlines on testing days when Fernando Alonso became the driver with the most laps completed (270) and placed seventh fastest average lap times in the final three-day tally.

The drivers were asked for their opinions about this Aston Martin hype prior to starting racing in Bahrain, and most of them agreed on the AMR23 stepping forward in terms of pace and competitivity.

“Yes we do,” said Carlos Sainz when asked if he expects Aston to be at the front of the field.

“Mainly because since December everybody has heard rumours that Aston Martin will be quick.

“This year we know their numbers were very good in the windtunnel, the simulator, I think they were even struggling to hide the excitement of what they were seeing.

“They arrived to the Bahrain [test] and it confirmed they’re in the mix with us and I think it’s great news for F1, great news for Fernando. Excited to have one more team in the [lead] battle.”

The Monegasque Charles Leclerc agreed with his Spaniard teammate:

“I think they will be in the mix, they will fight at the top at least I think.”

George Russell was questioned on Aston’s pace and the Briton assured this season could be a “nice fight for second place, probably between Ferrari and Aston Martin”, with Red Bull “in a league of their own.”

Lewis Hamilton highlighted the positive side of Aston Martin’s potential improvements on the track performance.

“Firstly I’m really happy to see that Aston has taken such a step forward, they are as far as we know, fully in the fight,

“Through all the days [of testing] you don’t know what fuel loads people are on and different things and it’s a bit all over the place but it looks like they’re very, very strong.

“They could be fighting right at the front, we’ll find out over the next day or so. I can’t say whether they’re ahead of us or we’re behind them.

“They could be fighting right at the front.”

“We’ll find out but I’m always hoping that there will be more than just two or three teams in the mix so I think we’re seeing that which is a positive.”

Two times F1 World Champion Max Verstappen agreed with his colleagues on the Silverstone-based team’s signs of good performance during the pre-season testing in Bahrain, even though the Dutchman was more cautious about Aston Martin’s 2023 hype.

“They looked very positive. If you look at the team they have a real desire of getting to the front. They’ve hired a lot of good people so it will be interesting to see where they will be, not only now but in the coming races and years. They had a very positive start.”

As a final comment, McLaren’s Lando Norris concluded by stating:

“Everyone has seen that Aston has made quite a good step. Fair play to them.”

On his side, Fernando Alonso made sure to handle the topic in the most sensible note and shrugged off any responsibilities that any leap forward in terms of pace and performance would mean for the British team.

“I have no idea [where] we’ll be in terms of the position,” said the 41-year-old.

“I don’t know, the aim with this car was to make a step forward which I think we did. The results of the test were very encouraging and the feeling of the car but this is just the start.

“This car will change dramatically during the season, that’s the plan. I heard from the team that two-thirds of this car will change during the season. So we want to have a good baseline, a good platform to develop the car during 2023 and maybe fight for something bigger next year.

“[We’ll take it] step by step.

“We can’t make that kind of step in only one winter, we’re happy but I think we have to have our feet on the ground and keep working on this good baseline.”