Fernando Alonso vowed his home Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday will be the last Formula 1 race this season where he does not finish in the podium.
The Spaniard has been enjoying a strong start for his 20th season in F1, a regular visitor to the podium ceremonies so far, with five podium finishes out of seven grands prix held so far.
The first time he missed out on a podium was in Azerbaijan, while the second was at his home race last weekend in Barcelona much to the disappointment of his adoring Spanish fans who were hoping their hero would achieve his coveted 33rd F1 career win.
However, the Aston Martin was off the pace in Spain, with Mercedes and Ferrari beating in Qualifying, as session when Alonso committed a rare error in Q1, going off in the final corner ending up with an excursion in the gravel trap, damaging the floor of his AMR23, and compromising his whole session which he ended ninth fastest.
In the race, Alonso could not advance to more than seventh up the grid, and while six was on the cards had he attacked teammate Lance Stroll towards the end of the race, the #14 Green Car held station behind its sister car.
Asked why he did not attack Stroll, Alonso told Formula 1’s Official Website: “I think I was a little bit faster, like one or two tenths – I had newer tyres [with] 10 laps to go. But when you get close to another car, you have turbulent air.
“I damaged one floor [in qualifying] already, I didn’t want to damage another one today and I didn’t want him to damage his floor either by defending!
“For us it was the same, sixth and seventh, seventh and sixth, same points, so we just… Bringing the car home felt like the right choice,” he insisted.
It will not happen again
As for his second time missing out on a podium this year, Alonso insisted: “It will not happen again, this is the last race without a podium!”
Up until the F1 race in Spain, Aston Martin were the second fastest team behind the dominant Red Bull, while Mercedes and Ferrari fought for third fastest, but that was no longer the case after Sunday.
Mercedes bought a major upgrade for their W14 in Monaco, and in its second outing in Barcelona, the B-Spec W14, having sidepods now, was the second fastest car now, while the jury is still out on the updated Ferrari SF-23 that was unleashed in Barcelona.
Aston Martin were beaten by both Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, as well Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, while Charles Leclerc struggled down the grid.
Former F1 driver and respected pundit of the sport Martin Brundle reflected on Mercedes’ upgrades in his Sky Sports F1 column, and admitted they have made progress but warned they still have a long way to go to catch Red Bull.
Brundle wrote: “Before we get too excited, they [Mercedes] were 24 and 32 seconds, respectively, behind a cruising Verstappen but at least it’s some hope that the Mercedes sidepod upgrade did some good, although we can’t say that about Ferrari’s similar upgrade yet.”
The Briton added that Aston Martin need to act fast to regain their status as the second fastest team in 2023, after Mercedes overtook them for the runner-up position in the F1 Constructors’ Championship following last weekend’s grand prix around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“After a tremendous start to the season Aston Martin need their imminent update to work too, as they fall behind Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship,” Brundle maintained.
While Aston Martin have been tweaking their package so far this season, the have not brought major upgrades like Ferrari and Mercedes who both ditched their aero philosophies to follow Red Bull-inspired routes, so it would be interesting to see how Aston Martin react.