Fernando Alonso said his third-place finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday was “too good to be true” and fueled his hopes of winning again in Formula One. Here’s what you need to know:
- In his first race for Aston Martin, Alonso finished third behind the dominant Red Bull cars of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
- Alonso narrowly avoided being taken out by team-mate Lance Stroll on the first lap, but finished third ahead of Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.
- It was Alonso’s 99th career podium, his first since Qatar 2021, and renewed hopes the 41-year-old can end a win drought that stretched back to 2013.
What Alonso said
“When you’re P3 in race one, there are 22 chances this season [to win],” said Alonso. “Even last year, in wet qualifying in Canada, I remember we were on the front row of the grid. Anything can happen in 22 races with different conditions. I’ll try to get a chance.
“Maybe we need some help. Last year, we needed the help of the leading teams to get a podium. Maybe this year if we have this help or some rests in front of us, or some problems, it could be more than a podium. Let’s hope for that.”
When Alonso announced he was leaving Alpine for Aston Martin last August, the team sitting ninth in the championship, many questioned his decision.
We’ve heard a lot about Alonso’s hopes in the eyes of Aston Martin and owner Laurence Stroll, who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into building the next great F1 team. But it was only after seeing the Aston Martin car this week that it became clear just how far the team has progressed over the winter.
An aggressive car redesign that follows the concept used by last year’s title-winning Red Bull team has made Aston Martin a team to watch from the test. The hype only grew when Alonso led practice on Friday, finishing fifth in qualifying to meet low expectations.
But his performance in the race, beating the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari on the track, and clearly loving every moment in the car points to a driver who is excited by future prospects.
How did Alonso finish third in Bahrain?
It ended in tears on the first lap for Alonso and Aston Martin. Alonso didn’t make the best of starts, slipping behind Hamilton – and then felt a tap from behind as Stroll ran deep into Turn 4. Alonso thought it was Russell and found out after the race that it was Stroll, who admitted that he was “really lucky” only to see the back of Alonso’s car and that the two could continue.
Alonso spent the opening period trailing both Mercedes cars, but quickly put pressure on Russell, who battled Hamilton in front of him. Alonso overthrew Russell just before pitting for the first time at the end of lap 14. The pair went side-by-side through Turn 4, but Alonso made a bold move into the high-speed Turn 5.
After pitting, Alonso passed Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas – who had advanced after pitting too early – to gradually close the gap as he set his sights on Hamilton. After both drivers pitted, Alonso’s pace was clear, as he initially tried to overtake at Turn 4, only to drop back. He planned his move a few corners ahead, faked a right as they went through Turn 9, and dived on the inside at Turn 10 – a practice some drivers use to overtake.
“It was a surprising move because nobody overtook inside Turn 10,” Alonso said. It was a bold move that was applauded by the media centre.
With Charles Leclerc out of the race due to engine failure, Alonso was now fourth and quickly closing in on the second Ferrari of Sainz, who was struggling with a flat tire. He considered another move at Turn 10, but decided to use TRS coming out of the corner before going inside at Turn 11. As Alonso responded on the radio, there was no chance of getting the Aston Martin back. ! Bye-bye!”
Alonso took it easy on the final lap, taking time to comment on how enjoyable the car was to drive, making sure he got the car home to record a remarkable third place for the Aston Martin. The team never finished higher than sixth last year.
“It’s too good to be true,” Alonso said. “You always expect something, and you take a step back and come back to reality. But it looks real, the performance.
The result moves Alonso to 99 F1 podiums. But that’s the winning number. The 33 – a “mission” his fans created this year on social media – is the next step for him and Aston Martin.
To know more about the Bahrain Grand Prix, read on Athletic’s live blog here.
(Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)