Fernando Alonso insists he is not thinking about pole position in the Bahrain Grand Prix despite leading the way in FP2.
Aston Martin stood out in pre-season testing as a potential threat to the likes of Mercedes, but Friday practice for the season opener saw Alonso finish second in FP1 and back that up with the fastest time in the more representative evening session. Still, after beating the two Red Bulls by nearly 0.2s and then matching Max Verstappen’s race run, Alonso says he’s not targeting pole position at this stage.
“No, not at all,” Alonso said. “I’m not thinking that high. Actually I don’t know exactly what position will be a good one for us. After testing we were thinking to be in Q3 with both cars and score as many points as possible in these first couple of races and not make mistakes.
“It’s very easy to make mistakes — it’s not the same fighting for P12 or P14 as fighting for the top five positions because the pressure is different, the adrenaline is different, so there are a lot of things that we as a team we have to grow together in this process.
“I expect that we will unfortunately make some mistakes, I may make some mistakes — it’s a completely new team, new procedures, the team as well. So we have to keep our feet on the ground and the target has to be fighting for the championship in the long term — I don’t think in this year yet.”
Alonso says Aston Martin still has so much work to do with the AMR23 that it isn’t focusing on lap times yet, but admits feeling that it is a strong car he has beneath him.
“It feels good to drive. I would lie if I would say it is not feeling good,” he said, “but everything is relative to what the other teams are doing and you can feel very good on one car and maybe there are three or four cars faster than you and it doesn’t feel that good anymore. So let’s see where we are.
“We have to be proud of the step that we have done. It has been a very intense two or three months’ work in the factory — we spent endless hours in the simulator and meetings trying to anticipate what problems we could face in the first couple of races. As I said, the knowledge that this team has, the talent that this team has is probably unprecedented, the group of people we have. So that is something that is very encouraging for the future.”
In contrast to his teammate’s caution, Lance Stroll was more effusive when it came to how strong Aston Martin is looking ahead of qualifying on Saturday, after finishing FP2 in sixth place on his first day in the car.
“Incredible!” Stroll said. “It’s looking amazing. And it’s feeling great in the car, too, so really top job from everyone.
“That (an all-Aston front row) would be awesome! We’ll try.”
Stroll was seen taking his right hand off the steering wheel during FP2 and clenching his fist, having had surgery on a broken wrist only 12 days ago, but despite telling the team he couldn’t adjust his line in FP1, the Canadian is confident he will be fine to complete a race distance.
Returning to the track following a wrist injury, Lance Stroll gave it his all in FP2#BahrainGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/wdMN9JYbNB
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 3, 2023
“I’m feeling all right. A little stiff, but it was overall OK in the car today,” he said. “I was just protecting it — feels a little more comfortable. I feel like I can definitely drive, no problem.”