Ferrari and Mercedes seem eager to lower expectations and put pressure on other teams heading into this weekend’s 2023 Bahrain GP.
Aston Martin has enjoyed plenty of positive press in the winter break, with their impressive lap times in testing resulting in unprecedented optimism about their chances this year.
The encouraging signs shown by the AMR23 cannot be denied, with pre-season testing indicating that Aston Martin has established a strong baseline for this season.
Dan Fallows has led the development of a car with a very different concept compared to last year, and this radical change seems to have paid off.
Fernando Alonso’s pace – especially in his final race simulation – was encouraging.
However, it is too early to celebrate at the Silverstone-based squad – with Ferrari and Mercedes likely still a few steps ahead.
Both teams kept plenty in reserve during testing, and both teams had a very healthy advantage over Aston Martin heading into the 2023 season.
But this hasn’t stopped Mercedes and Ferrari from trying to control expectations for this weekend, with George Russell outlining the potential Aston Martin threat:
“It probably wasn’t the smoothest three days we could have hoped for at testing. But the learning we found is going to put us in better stead for this weekend.
“I think it’s definitely fair to say Red Bull are in a league of their own this weekend.
“But it’ll probably be a nice fight for second between Ferrari and Aston Martin.”
Whilst Aston has certainly impressed so far, these comments are more indicative of Russell’s attempts to reduce the expectations on Mercedes this weekend.
This is not altogether surprising, given the W14’s apparent limitations, although ranking Aston Martin as a top-three team seems overly ambitious.
Still, Russell was not the only one to imply Aston Martin could fight at the front – with Carlos Sainz mentioning the British squad as a potential contender to the media:
“Since December, January, the rumours arrived that Aston Martin made very big progress…
“When there are so many rumours, you know at some point that some of it must be true.”
It would be overly dismissive to suggest these comments are without foundation, but expecting Aston Martin to surpass either of these teams is – at this stage – very optimistic.
These comments also create a narrative which could dampen the praise Aston Martin receives if they make the slightly less drastic (though still impressive) jump to become the ‘best of the rest’.
In any case, with Free Practice only 24 hours away, we will have a clearer picture of the running order momentarily.