Fernando Alonso believes the 2023 Formula 1 season is moving into a new phase that will see the order of the front-running teams change as more updates are introduced.
Aston Martin has started the year with three consecutive podiums as Alonso finished third in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia, but in the latest race Lewis Hamilton became the first non-Red Bull driver to beat the Spaniard. Alonso says that wasn’t a surprise given how closely matched Aston is with Mercedes, but he feels teams haven’t brought many developments so far and that the picture is set to evolve.
“I think Mercedes has also been strong in Jeddah, to be honest,” Alonso said. “All the race on Sunday I was within 0.1s of George (Russell) fighting to get this extra five seconds at the end, so it was very close.
“It seems that qualifying is quite important now because race pace is very similar, and I think now we enter into a part of the season which is going to be very interesting — which team is developing the car faster?
“I think the first three races being away from Europe it’s difficult to bring upgrades, but now on maybe we see the level of the teams changing a little bit race by race depending on who brings an upgrade good enough.”
While Alonso admits expectations have been exceeded by Aston Martin so far given how strong its car is, he says there are other aspects that the team still needs to show it can match its rivals on this year.
“For us it’s happy days at the moment — we never expected to be on the podium maybe even throughout the season, and in three races we have three. So everything that comes now is a plus, and third and fourth is a lot of points so we took every opportunity.
“We need to learn and we need to grow as a team also maybe now off track, because we are racing against Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari — teams that are maybe used to this kind of pace of development and maybe we are on a learning process. So we take this 2023 in a very humble manner and let’s see how it goes.”