The New Aston Martin F1 Car Might Actually Be Fast

bahrain, bahrain march 03 fernando alonso of spain driving the 14 aston martin amr23 mercedes leads lewis hamilton of great britain driving the 44 mercedes amg petronas f1 team w14 during practice ahead of the f1 grand prix of bahrain at bahrain international circuit on march 03, 2023 in bahrain, bahrain photo by lars barongetty images
The New Aston Martin F1 Car Might Actually Be FastLars Baron

Formula 1's preseason tests aren't always the best gauge of how a car will perform at the first race weekend. Teams focus on varying programs, run different tires, fuel levels, and purposefully leave time on the table to keep people guessing. Rumors before the test said Aston Martin was going to make a big leap this year, but those were just rumors. During the test, Aston was near the top of the time sheets, so the pace seemed legit, but there's always the unknown of what the other teams were doing.

Now, after the first practice for this weekend's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, it appears that the Aston Martin has very much made a leap in speed, and has possibly leapfrogged the midfield to be a real contender for race wins.

Fernando Alonso ended the first practice in second place, less than half a second behind Sergio Perez in the Red Bull. His teammate, Lance Stroll, was sixth. That might not sound impressive, but Stroll missed the entirety of testing after being injured in a cycling accident, so this is the first time he's driven the car.

Of course, this is still practice. We don't know what programs any of the teams were working on. And the warm, daytime conditions during FP1 do not mirror qualifying or the race, which will take place at night.

Still, this is impressive, and somewhat reminiscent of Brawn GP's 2009 campaign. Brawn arose from the ashes of Honda, which had woefully uncompetitive cars in 2007 and 2008 to then win the championship in 2009. The Aston Martin was unimpressive, at best, in 2022, so this is a welcome change of fortune. I wonder if Sebastian Vettel suddenly regrets retiring?

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