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Trackside: Bahrain Grand Prix

05 March 2023

Bahrain GP: Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th March, Bahrain International Circuit. 

Only 6 days after Pre-Season testing was complete, the AMR23 took to the track in Bahrain for it’s first competitive outing. Free Practice was promising, with Alonso finishing in the top two in all three sessions while Stroll, still carrying the injuries of his cycling crash, registered some very commendable 6th and 7th place finishes. It was clear Aston had made huge improvements over the winter, potentially enough to break into the leading pack of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

The Qualifying session of the first race of the season is the first time teams can be guaranteed to show their true pace. Both drivers easily made it through the first session, and in Q2 again sailed through; in 2022 there were only 6 instances of an Aston Martin driver making it into the top-ten shoot-out, yet both managed it in the first race weekend of 2023. In the final qualifying session Alonso set the 5th fastest time while Stroll managed 8th, either side of both Mercedes cars and behind Ferrari and Red Bull. Aston had well and truly broken into the group of top teams.

Under the lights at the Bahrain International Circuit, the Aston Martins of Messrs Alonso and Stroll lined up on the grid for the first race of 2023. The action started immediately, with both Astons clashing during the hectic first lap. Despite the setback, both drivers started the slow charge back through the field, with the first task being to clear the Mercedes’. Over the first 13 laps Alonso and Stroll caught up with the Mercedes of George Russell, with Alonso passing him after a tense multi-corner battle.

After the first set of pit stops Alonso sat 6th while Stroll occupied 8th place, largely making up for the losses suffered during the first lap collision. Some clever pit strategy gave Stroll a half chance to pass Russell, which he took, then Alonso used his fresher tyres to catch up and fight Lewis Hamilton during a close battle lasting nearly two whole laps, ending in an overtake that was the best of the race. A Charles Leclerc retirement (cue Ferrari F1 reliability joke) handed both drivers another place, with a potential podium finish only one more Ferrari away for Alonso.

Given the evident pace of the new Aston Martin, it wasn’t particularly surprising when Alonso moved himself up to third with 10 laps to go; the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz had neither the outright pace or the tyre life available to put up a serious defence. With large gaps ahead of both Aston drivers however, the action stopped there. As the chequered flag fell, Stroll came home in 6th (a mighty effort given his recent cycling incident) while Alonso secured his 99th career podium behind the two Red Bulls. Alonso came on the team radio in the closing stages of the race to say what “a lovely car to drive” the AMR23 was, and it was clear from the first grand prix weekend of 2023 that it was a fast one as well.

About Trackside

Trackside is Aston Workshop’s regular round up of the goings-on in Formula One, with a particular focus on the Aston Martin F1 team.