Fernando Alonso celebrated the perfect start to life at Aston Martin as he celebrated an ‘unreal’ podium at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Alonso said his third place finish in the Formula 1 season opener would have been considered unthinkable eight months ago when he turned his back on Alpine to replace four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Aston Martin finished just seventh in both 2021 and 2022 but Alonso, 41, who has so often found himself in the right team at the wrong time, suddenly has a car to rival at the sharp end of the grid.
“It’s a perfect start for this project,” said Alonso, who won the last of his consecutive world titles in 2006.
“We didn’t expect to be so competitive. The goal this year was to get in midfield, maybe lead that midfield and get close to the top three teams.
“Not even a podium was on the radar. But today we found ourselves with the second best car in Bahrain, just behind Red Bull. It’s unreal and unthinkable eight months ago.
“We are extremely proud and if we are strong in the next two races we will have a very good 2023.”
Alonso dropped from fifth to seventh at the start but with Max Verstappen dominating the attention turned to who would be the best of the rest and it was the Spaniard in his green British racebike who took center stage.
On lap 35 of 57, Alonso came out of his second stop right at Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes gearbox and the two oldest drivers on the grid rolled back the years as they contested fifth place.
Alonso saw an opportunity at Turn 4 on Lap 37, but he was too hot on his brakes. Hamilton survived, but only for two laps before Alonso threw his Aston Martin onto Hamilton’s inside with a commanding move at Turn 10 – a sharp left hander.
“Let’s go,” Alonso shouted in delight. Charles Leclerc’s engine failure in the rear of his Ferrari propelled Alonso to fourth before he sped past Carlos Sainz in the other scarlet car to finish third with eleven laps to go.
“It was great,” Alonso said of his argument with Hamilton. “There is a lot of respect between us.
“It’s never the same when you fight Lewis. He is one of the legends of the sport because he can do what is expected and use his talent.
“I caught him at Turn 4 and was ahead of him but he managed to pass me and that surprised me a bit and I didn’t like it so I tried to get past him somewhere else, and it worked.”