Fernando Alonso insists he is not thinking about pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix despite topping the practice times for his new Aston Martin Formula One team on Friday.
Alonso looked quick through the first day of the 2023 season and took top spot in the late afternoon FP2 session after lapping 0.169s faster than Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.
His teammate Lance Stroll was sixth fastest, despite the Canadian missing last week’s testing due to a wrist injury.
After a strong performance by Alonso in testing, rival teams tipped Aston to be in the mix with Ferrari and Mercedes, but the car was not expected to outperform Red Bull.
When asked if he would now be disappointed if he did not get pole on Saturday, Alonso was keen to keep expectations in check.
“Oh, no, not at all,” said the Spaniard, whose last pole position came in the 2012 German Grand Prix.
“I don’t think that high, to be honest. I don’t really know exactly which position would be a good one for us.
“After testing we thought to be in Q3 with both cars, score as many points as possible in these first couple of races, try not to make mistakes.
“It’s very easy to make a mistake, fighting for P12, P14 is not the same as fighting for top five positions, because the pressure is different, the adrenaline is different. So there are many things we as a team, we have to grow together, in this in this process.
“I expect unfortunately we’re going to make some mistakes, I might make some mistakes, it’s a whole new team, new procedures, the team as well. So we’ve got to keep our feet on the ground.
“The goal must be to fight for the championship, but in the long term I don’t believe in this year yet.”
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
Alonso praised the AMR23 but was keen to point out that there was more to come in terms of both improvements to the car and the way the team operates as he continues to adapt to the Silverstone outfit.
“Obviously it’s good to see the times, that you’re competitive,” he said.
“After testing there are always mixed feelings where you are and still as we go into qualifying and the race. And maybe the first three races are very different circuits, Bahrain, Jeddah and Australia.
“At the moment we are only concentrating on ourselves. Still a lot to improve in the car, the balance was not quite perfect today.
“And I also think the team has to change a few things, we are trying to strengthen all areas of the team.”
Alonso also paid tribute to the team’s efforts in recent months to progress. Aston finished seventh in the constructors’ championship last season, beaten to sixth on countback by Alfa Romeo.
“Obviously, it feels good to drive, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good,” he said.
“But it’s all relative to what the other teams are doing. And you can feel really good in a car and maybe there’s three or four cars faster than you and then it doesn’t feel so good anymore.
“So let’s see where we are. I think we have to be proud, the step we’ve made, it’s been a very intense two-three months of work in the factory.
“We spend endless hours in the simulator, in the meetings, trying to anticipate what problems we might face in these first couple of races.
“And like I said the knowledge that this team has, the talent that this team has, is probably unprecedented. The group of people that we have. So that’s something that’s very encouraging for the future.”