With rebranding common in Formula One, the Aston Martin team could well rename itself “Amazing Martin” after its remarkable start to the season at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
At 41 years old and making his debut with the team, Fernando Alonso resurfaced with his third place at the Sakhir circuit to get the 99th podium of his career.
Although Alonso shone in pre-season as teammate Lance Stroll was recovering from injury, the Spaniard claimed he was living a dream after scoring just his second podium finish since 2014.
“I have the same feelings as the pre-season tests, that it is something too good to believe that it is a reality. You’re always afraid that you’ll step back and get a reality check. But it’s real,” said the two-time F1 champion. “I really enjoyed the race. After the checkered flag, I felt like I could keep driving for another hour.”
The Red Bulls seem to be out of reach for everyone, with a resounding 1-2 from Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez in the night race.
But will Aston Martin be able to displace Mercedes and Ferrari to become the main adversary?
Another big showing in Saudi Arabia on March 19 will add to the euphoria at Aston Martin, although Alonso prefers to be cautious with his optimism.
“This weekend feels like a dream, but we have to remain realistic,” Alonso said. “Yeda is another type of circuit, a very different challenge. I can’t wait to get back in the car.”
Many pundits wondered how Alonso was going to fit in at Aston Martin after several conflicts in his previous teams. The most recent was Alpine, where he abruptly announced his departure in the middle of last summer.
Prior to that, he broke badly with Ferrari at the end of 2014 and then continued a disastrous four-year stint – without getting on the podium – at McLaren, where he raised his voice to criticize the performance of the car and its engines.
How will he get along with Stroll, the owner’s son?
So far, pretty good.
Stroll finished sixth in Bahrain despite the belief that he would not be able to compete after suffering a bicycle accident that prevented him from participating in pre-season tests, requiring surgery on his right wrist.
Stroll, who also broke a finger in the accident, received praise from Alonso.
“Sensational work by Lance, he has been a hero driving so soon after his injury,” Alonso said. “You can see the energy in the team: everyone is working hard and we are very motivated.”
Alonso has always been considered one of the most skilled drivers in F1. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton has said that the Spaniard has been the toughest opponent he has faced in his career.
Aston Martin finished seventh in the constructors’ championship last year with 55 points, but no points in the first three races and no podium finishes for Stroll and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, whose retirement opened the door for Alonso.
Aston Martin already registers 23 points and a podium. There is also the good harmony of Alonso with Stroll and the green team.
“Fernando Alonso brought positivity and that energy covered the whole team,” said Mike Krack, Aston Martin’s principal boss. “And the Lance thing, just competing was heroic. To see him finish sixth, after a huge pass on George (Russell), was huge.”