06 March 2023

Spending big on technical talent and Alonso’s influence – Aston Martin’s F1 rise

06 March 2023

Fernando Alonso provided the spark to Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix by finishing third on his Aston Martin debut.

The 41-year-old Spaniard fought his way past Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz in the closing stages to cap a brilliant drive.

Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at Aston Martin and their dramatic rise to the sharp end of the Formula One grid.

How have they done it?

Aston Martin flattered to deceive on their return to F1, finishing seventh of the grid’s 10 teams in both 2021 and 2022.

However, under the leadership of fashion billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll, they ended the opening race second only to Red Bull.

Aston Martin have doubled its headcount from 400 to 800 staff, splashing the cash to poach some of the sport’s top technical talent along the way, including Dan Fallows – who had a huge hand in building last season’s dominant Red Bull machine – and former Mercedes’ aerodynamic chief Eric Blandin.

And with Alonso at the wheel – a driver ranked among the best ever – they are suddenly a force to be reckoned with.

Will it last?

Stroll laid out an ambitious five-year plan to turn Aston Martin into world champions, and their remarkable, and almost unprecedented turnaround from last season, suggests they are ready to take on the sport’s so-called big three of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

Aston Martin buy their engine, gearbox and rear suspension from Mercedes, while also borrowing their wind tunnel.

However, the Silverstone-based team will soon move into a new state-of-the-art factory, and have use of their own wind tunnel, which is only likely to accelerate their rise to the top of F1.

Can Alonso challenge Max Verstappen for the title?

With Mercedes all but writing off their hopes this season, and mechanical woes still troubling Ferrari, Alonso could be the man best placed to stop Verstappen’s charge.

But despite his heroics in Sakhir on Sunday, Alonso still crossed the line a distant 48 seconds behind Verstappen, who was in cruise control for much of the 57-lap race. A title tilt could be beyond the Spaniard.

What’s next?

Although it seems unlikely that Alonso can challenge Verstappen over the stretch – with Mercedes’ George Russell making the chilling prediction that the world champions will win all 23 races this year – there is every chance he could capitalise on any Red Bull failure to take his first win in a decade.

“Aston Martin want to win and they’ve hired a lot of good people, so I guess it can only get better for them,” said Verstappen following Sunday’s race.

“It is difficult to say if they are going to challenge for the championship this year. But wins are definitely on the table.

“I’ve been in the same position where I have finished 20 to 40 seconds behind the winner at one race, and I have still won two or three times that year because there were tracks which suited the car, and everything comes together, and you get a bit of luck, too.”

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