Drawing any conclusions from pre-season testing is always a slippery slope, but the encouraging performance of the Aston Martin AMR23 cannot be ignored.
The Silverstone-based squad refused to mince its words over the winter break, with senior figures such as Dan Fallows and Eric Blandin outlining their ambitions for their 2023 season.
Challenging the top three has been very difficult for the midfield in recent years, so Aston’s goals of finishing the 4th year and closing the gap to the front seemed very optimistic over the winter.
However, the last three days of testing have validated the encouraging rumors about the AMR23 over winter – which intensified after Aston Martin’s 2023 launch.
Aston Martin captured headlines from the first day of testing, with Felipe Drugovich being forced to stop within a few laps of beginning his running programme.
Despite this early hiccup, Aston Martin recovered and completed an acceptable 100 laps.
The highlight came in the afternoon session when Fernando Alonso went second fastest overall with a 1:32.866, just three hundredths behind the Dutchman.
But it must be stressed that – whilst this was an impressive time on the C3 tire – the AMR23’s characteristics were more significant for observers within the paddock.
Alonso completed an impressive 130 laps on Day 2, benefitting from running time in both sessions. He finished the second day in P3, within five tenths of Verstappen on the C3 tyre.
Already, from these first two days, Aston Martin’s performance and handling were highly impressive.
Whilst unlikely to be enough to challenge the likes of Red Bull, early indications suggested the team could challenge at the front of the midfield.
Fernando Alonso insisted that these fast laps were not qualifying simulations, explaining that the AMR23 had plenty of fuel running in the tank.
It was on Day 3, however, that Aston Martin’s race simulation proved a very good omen for their chances in 2023.
Η προσομοίωση αγώνα του Fernando Alonso.
Fernando Alonso’s race simulation.#Day3 #PM #F1Testing #F1 @AstonMartinF1 #AMR23 pic.twitter.com/iXoTTb7RS5
— F1 Debrief (@f1debrief) February 25, 2023
Even without looking at the laptimes themselves, the Double World Champion showed very impressive tyre wear – progressively improving his laptimes.
The combination of improved track conditions and fuel burning saw the AMR23 consistently go faster across the long run.
When considering the likes of Ferrari continue to struggle with tyre wear in their long runs, Aston Martin seems to have established a very good foundation.
It would be a stretch to suggest that Aston Martin can consistently fight for wins, and even challenging for 3rd in the Constructors is – though possible – relatively unlikely.
However, the Silverstone team’s progress is quite unequivocal when comparing today’s race simulation to last year’s laptimes during the 2022 Bahrain GP.
Even if Aston can cement itself as the ‘best of the rest’ (which seems a relatively conservative estimate), the gap to the front is not insurmountable.
As we saw last season, the pecking order at the beginning of the season can evolve quickly. That said, Aston Martin has shown impressive development since the start of 2022.
Dan Fallows has led a complete transformation within the team, and – at least for now – it seems feasible for the team to continue its current trajectory.
Fighting for wins is probably a step too far, but if anyone is going to grab surprise podiums and upset the ‘big three’, it could be Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin.