What we learned from Alonso’s first Aston Martin Formula 1 test

Formula 1

As 9am came around and the light at the end of the pit lane went green, Alonso immediately peeled out of the Aston Martin garage, running in a sponsorless livery, blank overalls and a camo dazzle helmet, and was the first man out of the pit lane.

He did the same when the session resumed after a red flag for Oscar Piastri’s stoppage in the third hour. But was it a coincidence?

“No,” he said. “And yesterday here, in the paddock.” Again, he was the first man in. Clearly, there was no time to waste.

Less than 18 hours after making his final Alpine appearance in the F1 season finale, Alonso was already starting life with Aston Martin by completing a seat fitting on Monday and getting to know his future colleagues. Although he will not officially start until 1 January, Alonso knew the test would be an important chance to get ahead of the game for 2023.

The primary reason for Tuesday’s running at the Yas Marina Circuit was to sample the Pirelli tyres and help young drivers – not including Alonso, as it did in 2020… – get some more track time. But there were still a few things we could glean from Alonso’s first test for Aston Martin, and some early signs of what we could expect from the new partnership.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The first test only further justified the move to Alonso

When the first opinions were cast about Alonso’s decision to ditch Alpine for Aston Martin in 2023, one of the simplest questions was: why leave a team fourth in the championship for the one in ninth?

Alonso always said it was about the potential that Aston Martin was showing, the team setting ambitious targets under Lawrence Stroll’s ownership. The construction of a new factory at Silverstone is ongoing and, by all accounts, moving at impressive speed. The team recognised where it went wrong with the new regulations, but showed good flexibility in reacting to mount a late charge that left it just a point away from beating Alfa Romeo to sixth in the standings.

Alonso said after the test that he was “90% happy” when he signed the deal with Aston Martin in late July, the lingering 10% perhaps a result of the lack of performance there had been through the year up to that point. “When they started improving and finished the season on a high, I was 100%,” he explained. “This morning, I was 100 and now I’m 100-plus.”

Although Alonso noted the car philosophy was “very different” compared to what he had at Alpine, he did not appear to struggle getting in the right groove with it, saying it was “behaving well”. He pointed out that on his first run, he did a 1m26.6s lap time and joked: “It’s three-tenths off my best time – so adaptation is nearly over!”

Energised by a fresh start

Alonso will hardly be starting life with Aston Martin at an especially low ebb. His performances through 2022 have been undeniably impressive, to the extent he maintained even on Sunday in Abu Dhabi that it was “absolutely” his best season in F1 since coming close to the title in 2012.

But the frustration over Alpine’s reliability struggles and the impact on his final points tally – 11 points lower than that of Esteban Ocon across the garage – was not something Alonso hid. On Sunday night in Abu Dhabi, he said his retirement from the race due to a water leak was a “summary of the season.” The comment about Aston Martin’s engine mileage being “high by my standards” before completing a 97-lap test shows it is still a sore point.

Alonso’s had many fresh starts in F1 over the past 20 years, but there is a clear energy he feels with Aston Martin. This isn’t like 2021, when he was returning after two years away and needed time to get up to speed. He feels he is performing at his best, and sees the potential around him for the team to go much further.

“I cannot be overconfident for sure, because everything is going to change for next year,” Alonso said. “But the feeling I had today in the garage with the guys and the potential of the team, the talent that I see in the engineering room here is outstanding. I’m really, really, really happy right now.”

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Car comfort is the main thing to fix before next season

Alonso said on Saturday in Abu Dhabi that this test would be “like gold” for him and his push to get up to speed with Aston Martin for 2023, attacking things like seat position, the pedals, steering wheel button placement and functions, and the general systems of the car.

It’s small but important stuff, and ultimately stood to be the trickiest part of Alonso’s day, jumping straight into the Aston Martin and learning in live conditions. The only big drawback of his day was the seat, which he said needed to be adjusted before his next running as the left-side of his back was “a little bit painful.”

Through the 97 laps of running, Alonso would have been making a mental list of everything in the cockpit that was different and what adjustments would be required. Alonso said that given the Aston Martin car in 2023 is going to be “not anywhere near” what he drove today, focusing on those smaller elements was more important to him than getting a feel for car balance or its characteristics. The muscle memory needs to be rewired after two years with Alpine.

“It’s not really the balance itself or the behaviour of the car.” Alonso said when discussing what he was working on. “The shift tones for the gears, for the pit lane, the dash messages when you do a change, how long pop up on the dash the message, these kind of things, you are used to one set-up. Now, you try to accommodate to [do things] in a more natural way. These kind of things are probably the priority now.”

Alonso knows this could be his last F1 project

The extra determination spurring Alonso on to make things work with Aston Martin also comes from an unavoidable fact: he’s getting older.

At 41, Alonso is comfortably the oldest driver on the grid, but a multi-year Aston Martin deal means he could well be nearing his mid-40s by the time discussions about a renewal come about.

He’s shown few signs of slowing down, remaining as hungry and competitive as ever. But he acknowledged after the test running that the felt “maybe even more” optimism about this move, saying: “This is a [new] project, maybe the last of my career, and they have a very big investment.”

Alonso isn’t looking to wait around, and nor is Aston Martin. That much was clear in his 97-lap run today, or his eagerness to get out on-track or into the garage on Monday. The hopes are clearly high, and the fresh start may well be what he needs – and be a big catalyst for the team in its push to join F1’s top table.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

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Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

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Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

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Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

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Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

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Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

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Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

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Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

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Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR22

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Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images




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