Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo fought over sixth place in last year’s world championship until the final lap. Alfa Romeo prevailed by the slimmest of margins: The two teams were tied on points, the final ranking decided on count-back of finishing positions.
Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll will line up fifth and eighth respectively tomorrow. To put that into perspective, neither of the team’s cars got out of Q1 last year. Nico Hulkenberg was their highest qualified in 17th, two places ahead of Stroll.
Small wonder that Stroll was so eager to return from injury to get behind the wheel of the AMR23, which he says is a significant step forward from its predecessor in every area. “It’s everywhere,” he said. “Balance, grip, we’ve just improved everything.”
But their former rivals are barely any quicker than they were at this track last year. While Aston Martin have taken the biggest step forward, Alfa Romeo have made the least progress, Valtteri Bottas lapping just a tenth of a second quicker than he did last year. Had Alexander Albon been able to complete his Q2 run without incurring damage on his Williams, Alfa Romeo could well have been the slowest team on the track.
Bottas’ team mate Zhou Guanyu was just three-hundredths of a second slower. He says progress has been made, but not on the scale of the teams’ rivals.
“We obviously made a step in terms of performance compared to the last few races last year,” said Zhou. “But I feel like it’s quite clear some people made a huge step.”
While there are some striking changes compared to last year, the latest cars have only appeared in public on one track so far, and it remains to be seen whether the gains produced in Bahrain will be replicated elsewhere on the calendar. In Alfa Romeo’s case, the team expected to make the greatest gains in high-speed corners, but there are relatively few of those in Bahrain.
Aston Martin didn’t make all their progress over the winter. The team introduced a significant upgrade to its launch car early last season, which began to reap dividends in the latter half of the season.
Nonetheless Aston Martin’s midfield rivals of 2022 can probably forget about fighting them this year. AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda admitted their performance “is miles away, I think, from top midfield.”
“It’s not consistent yet, still I was lacking a bit of grip as well. So we need to find this performance as soon as possible.” There are plenty of other drivers in the same position after the first serious day of running in 2023.
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In the second year since F1 overhauled its technical regulations, teams have begun to find more performance from the rules. But while Max Verstappen’s pole position time is 0.85 seconds quicker than last year, it’s still 2.4 seconds off the quickest time around this circuit produced by F1’s downforce monsters of two years ago.
Red Bull would need to emulate Aston Martin’s leap forward next winter to stand a chance of matching that time 12 months from now.
NB. 2004 and 2010: Different track configuration used; 2011: Race cancelled
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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix
- Why F1’s 2023 tyres are requiring drivers to change their management style
- The familiar and unfamiliar problems holding McLaren back at the start of 2023
- ‘Not like a rookie’: How McLaren glimpsed Piastri’s potential in curtailed debut
- “I’m a shouty guy”: Tsunoda told to rein in “emotional” radio chatter
- Norris takes heart from Aston Martin’s recovery after slow start for McLaren
2 comments on “Aston Martin improved by 2.5 seconds while others only gained a tenth”
5th March 2023, 4:22
Interesting break down of the data.
5th March 2023, 5:36
I was confident the 2016 pole time of 1:29.493 would get beaten this year, but not in the end.
A pole time faster than the 2016 equivalent should definitely happen next year with even more evolution within stable technical regulations.
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