Fernando Alonso hailed the perfect start to life at Aston Martin as he celebrated an “unreal” podium at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Alonso said his third place at Formula One’s 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 only 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 compete at the sharp end of the grid.
“It’s a perfect start for this project,” said Alonso, who won the last of his back-to-back world titles in 2006.
“We didn’t expect to be this competitive. The aim this year was to get in the mix with the midfield, maybe leading that midfield, and get close to the top three teams.
“Even a podium was not on the radar. But today we found ourselves with the second best car in Bahrain, just behind Red Bull. It is 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 best of the rest, and it was the Spaniard, in his British racing green machine, who took centre stage.
On lap 35 of 57, Alonso emerged from his second stop right on Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes’ gearbox, and the two oldest drivers on the grid rolled back the years as they diced for fifth place.
Alonso sniffed a chance 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 down Hamilton’s inside with a supreme move at Turn 10 – a sharp left-hander.
“Let’s go,” screamed Alonso in delight. Charles Leclerc’s engine demise in the back of his Ferrari promoted Alonso to fourth before he raced past Carlos Sainz in the other scarlet car to take third with 11 laps to go.
“It was great,” said Alonso of his scrap with Hamilton. “There is lot of respect between us.
“It is never the same when you fight against Lewis. He is one of the legends of the sport because he can do something expected and use his talent.
“I got him at Turn 4, and I was in front of him, but he managed to pass me back and I was a little bit surprised by that and I did not like it, so I tried getting past him in another place and it worked.”