Aston Martin surprised Alonso and everyone else

The 2023 F1 season began in an unsurprising fashion as Red Bull stormed to a one-two finish at Bahrain GP with Max Verstappen leading proceedings.

What was a bit of a shock was Fernando Alonso bagging third place in an Aston Martin. The Spaniard was on song, overtaking Lewis Hamilton while also having a slice of fortune as Charles LeClerc had to retire due to an engine issue.

We got in touch with double World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi to discuss the race, Alonso’s return to the podium and more.

Aston Martin’s performance surprised Fernando Alonso and everyone else

Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, who coincidentally surpassed Fittipaldi himself to become F1’s then youngest World Champion, made a return to an F1 podium for the first time since 2021.

The Spaniard’s last podium finish was in the Qatar GP in 2021 when he was racing for Alpine and he finished third. That podium was his first after 2014 when he was racing for Ferrari.

Updated on 06/02/2023
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Alonso achieved this in an Aston Martin, the team that finished seventh in the Constructors’ Championship last year.

Fittipaldi says that the performance of the Aston Martin surprised Fernando Alonso himself and everyone else.

"Fernando Alonso's podium was an unexpected one. I think the Aston Martin's performance even surprised Fernando and everyone in the team."

The Brazilian observed that the Aston Martin’s grip was better than other cars and believes the team can compete at the top.

"If you look at the mid-corners and slow-speed corners, Fernando was able to have different lines than the competitors. That means he had extra some grip there."

"When he overtook, he was very maneuverable on the slow, mid-speed corners. That means the car has a very good grip and handling."

"Lance Stroll was quick. With all the problems he's had, he was running very strong, very quickly."

"That means they'll be a challenge in this year's Championship. No doubt."

Alonso was Driver of the Day for me but Gasly was also impressive

Fittipaldi proclaimed Alonso as his Driver of the Day but was also impressed by Pierre Gasly, who started at 20th in the grid and clawed to a ninth place finish.

“The driver of the day was Fernando Alonso. He was strategic, he was right and the team did a very good job."

"Pierre Gasly had a great performance. He was very impressive."

"Gasly for sure he's a good driver but it's going to depend a lot on the team. How the team will behave in the next few GPs. The technical performance of Alpine, that's what we don't know."

Challenge for other teams to match up to Red Bull

Christian Horner’s Red Bull completely dominated the race, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez comfortably finishing first and second.

According to Fittipaldi, this was expected looking at how Red Bull’s cars did in testing and the challenge for other teams will be to match up to the reigning champions.

"I think the Bahrain GP, to me there were no surprises because when I look at the testing, the Red Bull was clearly ahead of everyone else."

"Coming out of corners, mid-corners, they had much more grip than other cars. It showed yesterday."

"The grip, the balance, amazing. Yes they are the best team again this year, for grip, downforce and keeping the tires in good condition."

"The Red Bull will continue and it's a challenge for all the teams to try to get close to this dominance."

Mercedes are in a better position than they were last year - don’t count them out

The motor racing icon also commented on Mercedes’ performance saying that they’re in a much better position than they were at the same time last season.

Fittipaldi believes that Mercedes possess the know-how and talent to improve and contend with Red Bull.

"If you look back at the beginning of last year, Mercedes were even worse."

"I think they will come back stronger. They have the experience, they have the technology."

"They have a long way to go but they can recover. Another few Grands Prix and they'll be competitive again."

"In my opinion, the first GP gives a very good indication for the rest of the year."

"If you remember last year, Mercedes in the beginning was really off-pace. And then they recovered. It is a long season.”

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Photo by Sebastian Pociecha