Fernando Alonso has declared that Aston Martin are “in the mix” with the front-running teams again after an encouraging run to fifth during the Belgian Grand Prix.
Alonso and Aston Martin started the 2023 season with six podium finishes in eight races but experienced more challenging weekends in Austria, Britain and Hungary – the latter event yielding only a ninth-placed finish for the Spaniard.
Despite some Sprint-related troubles at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend, Alonso battled his way from the fifth row of the grid to fifth position on race day, behind only the Red Bulls, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Asked if he felt content about the result, which helped to keep Aston Martin third in the constructors’ standings, the two-time world champion said: “Yeah, very, very happy. I think top five is back to normality for us in terms of results.
“We kept George [Russell] behind, Lando [Norris] as well, in the mix with the Mercedes, with the McLaren, so much more normal. I felt the car [was] fast all throughout the race. We had a good start but then we kept the pace very high.
Race Highlights: 2023 Belgian Grand Prix
“Thanks to the team, we made a few modifications in the set-up of the car, after Hungary, after Silverstone, maybe we did some mistakes there. I think the most important thing is understanding the car and it’s what we’re doing.”
Alonso went on to express confidence that, following the month-long summer break, Aston Martin can edge their way back to the kind of results they were achieving earlier in the year.
“I think we are happier, we are feeling fast again,” he added. “The strategy was perfect, the start was good, pit stops good as well, and the pace of the car back in the mix with the top teams.
“I think we can go into the summer break a little bit more optimistic, but with the feet on the ground, knowing that we still lost a little bit of competitiveness since the beginning of the year, so more to come from Aston Martin hopefully after the summer.”
On the other side of the garage, Lance Stroll made it a double points finish with a run to ninth, having beaten AlphaTauri rival Yuki Tsunoda to the chequered flag by just under a second.
Top 5 ‘back to normal’ for Alonso after ‘difficult’ Saturday
“It was good to pick up a couple of points, especially at a circuit where we haven’t been particularly strong this weekend,” the Canadian commented.
“We made the decision to go for a long first stint on the medium tyres because we could see some rain coming on the radar. The rain did come in some areas of the track, but it was drivable without needing intermediates, so we boxed for the soft tyre.
“It was a bit of a gamble – if the rain had been heavy enough, we could have saved ourselves the extra stop – but in hindsight two stops was probably the better strategy. The last stages of the race became about managing the soft tyre, so I didn’t really have the grip to defend when Esteban [Ocon] was closing in.
“We’ve had a mixed start to the season and I think we know there’s some work to do as we head into the second half. That being said, it’s been a huge step up from last year and I know the team is motivated to keep pushing for more.”