The headlines were all but written from the first day of Formula One’s 2023 pre-season day 1 test, when up pooped Fernando Alonso to post a time within a whisker of that set by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Granted, the track temperature for Alonso was about 15 degrees lower than when Verstappen recorded his best time which would have been in the Spaniard’s favour.
Yet Alonso is doing what Alonso does best, putting himself and the Aston Martin team at the top of the talking points list. The question now being asked is whether Aston Martin has overtaken Mercedes on single lap pace?
The Mercedes car while displaying none of the porpoising troubles of last year did look a handful on a number of the kerbs. The W14 appears to have inherited the stiff ride characteristic from its much-unloved predecessor.
Red Bull fast & smooth, Ferrari not
Red Bull and Verstappen appeared to be in a league of their own. The world champion recorded more laps than any other team, set the fastest time and the Red Bull’s long run pace was around 0.4s better than the rest.
Ferrari worryingly suffered from low frequency porpoising and both drivers were just over 0.4s slower than Verstappen.
Lando Norris pooped into the top 5 on the time sheets pushing Lewis Hamilton down to 6th.
Alex Albon’s quick lap faltered to deceive because though good enough for P7 was set on the softer C5 tyres, while most others best times were on the hard Pirelli C3.
Alpine will be happy to have completed 113 laps across both drivers with no recurrence of their Achilles heel from last season, water pump troubles.
Alpine claim their car is under the weight limit before adding ballast, which is something Mercedes can only dream of at present, but the car at times looked a handful.
The French owned team were clearly not focusing on lap time today and expect them to be further up the pecking order before the end of Friday.
Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams looked to be solid midfielders, though the Red Bull sister squad’s car appeared clumsy in the slower corners.