AMR23: Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin combines the muscle of Mercedes and the finesse of Red Bull | Formula 1 | Sports| The USA Print

Fernando Alonso celebrates his third place on the podium in Bahrain.

If we take into account the expectations generated and the performance shown so far by the AMR23, in just two months Aston Martin has taken a bite out of more than a year on the roadmap it had planned in its intention to wriggle towards the area. noble of the table, the upper part, from the seventh place that it occupied last season in the statistics reserved for manufacturers. The most optimistic forecasts, those that were transmitted to Fernando Alonso during that frenetic Hungarian Grand Prix in July that ended with the announcement of his incorporation with a view to 2023, contemplated that the British team would be able, with luck, to show its nose by the medians of the grill.

There he was going to realize wax with McLaren and Alpine, two teams with a much more positive inertia and that theoretically looked up. The events that precipitated on Sunday in Bahrain, the first stop on the calendar, and that returned Alonso to the podium (the 99th of his record) two years after the last time and when the Asturian circulates packed towards his 42nd birthday (in July ), confirm that even in a contest as technologically controlled as the Formula 1 World Cup, there are cracks through which the most unsuspected fables slip.

The 38-second margin that Max Verstappen put into the car from Oviedo, the first non-Red Bull to cross the finish line, predicts another triumphant ride for the energetic brand, which started from the most efficient prototype of last year ―17 victories out of 21 possible— and that he has upped the ante by improving it a little more. However, behind the structure of Milton Keynes (United Kingdom) anything can happen, and it is in that gap where Aston Martin has currently placed itself, which in Bahrain filled the second podium in its history in style. And not precisely due to specific circumstances, such as the abandonment of Charles Leclerc when he was running the third, due to a failure that left the engine of his Ferrari fried. The very high rate of degradation of the tires when fitted with the SF-23, and the care with which the green car treats them, lead one to think that Alonso would have perfectly been able to gobble up the 11 seconds that separated him from the Monegasque when he crashed. He was thrown 15 laps before the end.

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Fernando Alonso celebrates his third place on the podium in Bahrain.AFP7 via Europa Press

Mercedes has a very big conceptual problem with the design of its W14, evidence that has dragged on from the previous year and that may force the manufacturer of the star to make a clean slate, but always respecting the current budget limitations. In fact, this is the first championship start since the introduction of the hybrid era (2014) in which the Stuttgart giant sees one of its clients get on the podium before one of its official drivers does. Ferrari, in turn, does not seem to have resolved the lack of confidence or the mistreatment of tires that weighed it down so much in 2022. Aston Martin applauds one and the other after having designed a car that combines muscle and the solvency of the engine Mercedes, and the subtlety in the handling of the compounds that gave it its aerodynamic profile, the strong point of Red Bull. The combination is not strange if we take into account that two of the key pieces of the project led by Lawrence Stroll are the engineers Dan Fallows and Eric Blandin. The first landed in April last year after the Canadian tycoon freed him from the purgatory to which Red Bull sent him, upon learning of his commitment to Aston Martin. The second joined a few months earlier after having sharpened the Silver Arrows since 2011.

Since the AMR23 began to give clues to its benefits, the executives of the champion team began a campaign based on plagiarism, pointing directly to Fallows. Helmut Marko, one of Red Bull’s sports managers, went so far as to insinuate that the engineer could have left his old job with specific documentation. Christian Horner, the director, preferred to be ironic. “It was good to see how old our car is going so well,” he commented when asked about Alonso’s third place. The Mexican Checo Pérez, for his part, was also sarcastic on Sunday at the press conference after the Bahrain Grand Prix, in which he was second: “It’s good to see three Red Bulls on the podium.”

A record alonso

To the accumulation of talents of the Silverstone troop is added a competitive animal like Alonso, who has spent recent times eating away at himself, frustrated at not having the necessary material to express the potential that his hands still hide. This podium comes to the Spanish 380 grand prix after the first one he did, in 2003 in Malaysia and with Renault, and allows him to establish a record that exceeds the previous record (347 appointments), with the signature of Michael Schumacher. In addition, he also makes him one of the five runners of all time who have been able to get on the box dressed in five different overalls.

Fernando Alonso at the moment of overtaking Lewis Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso at the moment of overtaking Lewis Hamilton.AFP7 via Europa Press

“Having Fernando is like having an extra engineer; a very good one with a lot of experience. There is not a word that comes out of his mouth that does not contribute something ”, complimented Tom McCullough, Aston Martin’s director of performance, in a statement a few days ago, collected by motoring. The engineer is a key piece to be able to interpret the enormous metamorphosis of the team, which in one winter has gone from crawling through the catacombs of the grid, to establishing itself as one of the references.

“The pace of the Aston is worrying,” Carlos Sainz acknowledged at the end of the test, the fourth. The man from Madrid is confident that the extremely high level of abrasion of the asphalt that covers the Sakhir circuit will aggravate the severity with which his Ferrari baked the tires. “It is clear that both the Aston Martin and the Red Bull, for some reason, were less tire-smashing than us and Mercedes. It is something that we must analyze to see what we can do”, adds the runner of the team.

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