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That’s it. I’ve seen enough. After one race weekend and a day of free practice sessions, I — an armchair F1 pundit — am ready to declare that Aston Martin, is, in fact, for real.
Like, for real for real.
Two weeks ago, the Silverstone-based team had their best weekend in Bahrain since Sergio Perez drove a pink Mercedes from last to the top step of the podium at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020. They weren’t even known as Aston Martin, they were still called Racing Point.
But that was just one race, there are 22 other circuits to visit, and maybe Bahrain was the one that the AMR23 was cut out for the best.
Surely, I thought between then and now, The Jeddah Corniche Circuit will present different challenges.
Its high-speed nature and long straights made me think that the team might show some struggles. In Bahrain, they were at their best mid-corner at low and medium speeds. They don’t really have those in Saudi Arabia.
The name of the game there is power.
Fernando Alonso said it himself; that the first three races are on such varied circuits that they won’t be able to fully assess the car until after Australia.
I would’ve put my money on Saudi Arabia being the circuit that exposes a weakness.
“Would’ve,” as in “before I saw what they did in practice on Friday.”
Aston Martin Picked Up Where They Left Off In Bahrain
So, with that in mind, let’s check in on FP1.
Alright. That’s pretty good, and Lance Stroll was just behind Alonso in P4. Okay, but the race and qualifying are at night. Let’s see how Aston Martin did in FP2, the dress rehearsal for the sessions that count.
Same story, but an even better session for Fernando.
That session consisted mostly of high-fuel race runs, and the Aston proved to have race pace yet again. Not as strong of a showing for Stroll, but still, this team is going to be a problem for the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari.
The only thing that concerns me with Aston Martin is qualifying. That was slightly underwhelming in Bahrain, even if that was less a byproduct of their performance and more Ferrari’s tendency to bring it on Saturdays (Sundays… not so much).
I think they’ll easily slip into Q3 and Alonso could definitely be in the first three rows again (A penalty for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc should help with that too). If he does — and can avoid clipping his teammate on the opening lap again — he could easily run with the Red Bulls on Sunday.
I know we’re all digging March Madness, but the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is going to bring it.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle