Leclerc and Verstappen expect an even stronger Aston Martin at the Bahrain GP

After Alonso led FP2 and FP3 to the top, Alonso confirmed Aston Martin’s huge leap forward by qualifying fifth in the AMR23, just six tenths off polesitter Verstappen while teammate Lance Stroll qualified eighth.

Alonso said right after qualifying his pace was almost “too good to be true” but felt that with Aston Martin’s historically stronger race pace, he could potentially complete a podium challenge, taking both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz’s Ferraris attacking who share the race the second row.

Leclerc expects Aston to be “probably faster than what they showed in qualifying” and therefore agreed that overtaking Alonso will be a tough challenge.

“They showed very promising race pace in FP2, but again in FP2 it’s very difficult to judge because you don’t know the fuel level in the car,” said Leclerc.

“But I think they will be strong in the race, probably faster than what they showed in qualifying even though they were pretty close.”

While the speedy Red Bulls are likely out of reach, Verstappen was wary of the threat posed by the Silverstone team.

“Yeah sure, they look very competitive,” he added.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Erik Junius

“And I think not just this year, but last year. Their car might not have been great, but I think at race pace they’ve always been pretty strong compared to their rivals.

“They’ve probably taken that into this year too, so for sure they’ll be very competitive in the race, but it’s a bit hard to say.”

If Aston Martin’s race pace and tire management has been one of its strengths in the past, the opposite is true for Ferrari, who struggled with tire degradation in 2022.

Sainz, who is Alonso’s next target as a fourth-place starter, reckons his compatriot will be at least “equal or lower in terms of deterioration” than the Ferraris, with Leclerc at least having the advantage, in comparison with a new set of tyres to start scrubbed sets for Sainz and Alonso.

“It’s true that we beat them in qualifying, but in the race we expect them to finish level or worse than us, so it’s going to be a tough Sunday,” Sainz thought.

“But I always go into a race and I think we can win. i know how to fight [Alonso] good, but it’ll be a lot of fun to have him up there.”

When asked if Aston’s true pace was in any way a surprise having dominated the conversation in the paddock since pre-season testing, Sainz said: “We knew it. To be honest, we knew.

“There’s no mystery in Formula 1 these days with GPS data and how everyone drives the car.

“We knew they would be quick.”

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