Formula 1: Fernando Alonso’s last arreón, a bullet in Bahrain | Formula 1 | Sports

Fernando Alonso, with his Aston Martin, about to leave the garage for the free practice of the Bahrain GP.
Fernando Alonso, with his Aston Martin, about to leave the garage for the free practice of the Bahrain GP.Lars Baron (Getty)

“We have investment, we have infrastructure and we have talent, so it is a matter of time before this team reaches success.” Precisely time does not spare Fernando Alonso, the author of the phrase, who will be 42 years old in July and who made his debut in the Formula 1 World Championship 22 years ago. The Spaniard released this declaration of intent at the presentation of Aston Martin. When he said that, he could hardly guess that the design of the new car was going to allow the Silverstone team (United Kingdom) to considerably shorten the times of that hill until the noble zone of the time table. Waiting for the qualifying session on Saturday (4:00 p.m., DAZN), the performance exhibited by Aston Martin in the previous one should place Alonso, the fastest in the first free practice this Friday (a few tenths faster than Verstappen), and Lance Stroll in the fight for one of the first six places on the grid and, why not, as aspirants to get on the drawer.

The x-ray left by the winter tests positioned Red Bull in a dimension well ahead of the rest. In the first group of pursuers should coincide Ferrari, probably Mercedes and, surprise!, also Aston Martin. The AMR23 was one of the fastest and most consistent cars in the three days of group testing 10 days ago, and its mock race was most striking. The audacity that Dan Fallows and Eric Blandin have shown in the profile of the green car has caught more than one by surprise. The line of the two engineers, the first coming from Red Bull and the second from Mercedes, has revitalized a group now forced to redefine its objectives. His proposal has been different from the one applied in the AMR22, which was born half lame and later, with the advance of the grand prizes, began to carburize better. “Dan’s group has changed the focus. In the current ecosystem, so conditioned by the budget limit, not everything can be trusted to the evolution during the season. There is not enough money for that, so it helps a lot to start with a good base”, explains Mike Krack, the director of the British structure.

This is the first leg of the ambitious route defined by Lawrence Stroll, the largest shareholder of the prestigious luxury brand with a license to kill – the Aston Martin is the most common vehicle in the James Bond movies -, since he took over the control of the entire shed in 2018, at that time under the Force India seal. The new factory can already be seen on the horizon, with an investment of close to 230 million euros, and, above all, the wind tunnel, one of the tools that most influence the success or failure of a single-seater, but that it will not be fully operational before 2025, with a view to the 2026 prototype. By then, Alonso will already be 44 years old and it is almost improbable to imagine him in the contest.

“This is probably the last team I’m going to drive for,” admits the two-time world champion (2005 and 2006), who last summer caught most of the paddock off guard when announcing his umpteenth change of scenery. The most surprised were the Alpine bosses, who two years earlier had announced his return as the prodigal son. Together they planned a long-term relationship, in which the Asturian would change roles within the company. However, the discrepancies regarding the validity of his first renewal —Alpine only offered him one year and he asked for two— precipitated a rupture that left those responsible for the Renault group in the air, while shifting all eyes and the pressure towards Aston Martin.

Alonso, during the training session, this Friday.
Alonso, during the training session, this Friday.Lars Baron (Getty)

That Plan that he devised with the Enstone formation never came to fruition and what he has to publicize now is Mission 33, alluding to the challenge of adding another victory to the 32 that appear on his service sheet. The last one was signed at the Spanish Grand Prix 10 years ago, as a spearhead for Ferrari. Since he left the Scuderia (2015), Alonso has only been on the podium once (Qatar 2021), already with Alpine and on his return to the World Cup after two years of leave. With the statistics in hand, he should lose out with this last change if we take into account that he disassociates himself from the fourth best team in the table, with 173 accumulated points in 2022, to end up in seventh, with only 55 points. However, the indications that the activity on the track has left so far lead one to think that this enormous margin has not only been reduced, but has even come to favor Aston Martin and its main claim. Together they gather the potential, the experience and the ambition to add even more powder to an already explosive championship. This impression is not only shared by those who have lived, for a long time, dedicated to the Nano, but it is the most widespread opinion in the garage area.

“I am very happy to see that Aston Martin has taken a step forward. It’s early and there are still many things we need to discover, but I have the feeling that they will fight to be ahead. What I do not know if it will be ahead or behind us ”, says Lewis Hamilton, already from Sakhir. “I think they have made a very good car,” agrees Max Verstappen. For the current champion, the solvency of the AMR23 in the long runs of turns is what makes it more dangerous, above the muscle it can exhibit on Saturdays. “With the new single-seaters, the speed at a turn is no longer so relevant, because if the team is good you will be able to overtake. I am very curious to see where they will be, but when I speak to Fernando and look into his eyes, he seems optimistic”, adds the current champion. “We all know that his numbers, in the wind tunnel and in the simulator, are very good. In fact, I think one of the main problems they had was trying to contain their excitement. Then they came to Bahrain [en pretemporada] and they confirmed that they are in the fight with us”, sums up Carlos Sainz. “This is great news for Fernando and also for F-1,” stressed the Madrid driver from Ferrari.

Mechanics from Fernando Alonso's Aston Martin team work on his car, this Friday.
Mechanics from Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin team work on his car, this Friday. ALI HAIDER (EFE)

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