Ex-Formula 1 driver Jolyon Palmer believes that Fernando Alonso could take his first race win in 10 years this season with Aston Martin.
Alonso ended the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in third place last weekend, marking a dream start for his stint at the Silverstone-based squad.
Aston Martin’s AMR23 challenger has been attracting attention since pre-season testing, and made a claim for the second-fastest car in the field last Sunday.
Writing in his post-Bahrain column for Formula1.com, Palmer hailed Alonso’s performance.
“Fernando Alonso has been waiting a decade for a car that he can compete with at the sharp end of Formula 1, and finally in 2023 it seems he has one,” he said.
“The Aston Martin looked hooked up from the word go in pre-season.
“It took a while for Fernando to emerge in the car, but from the very first lap I saw, he looked comfortable and was hustling on, visibly more than most others out there.
“By the time we got to the race weekend, there was a palpable air of excitement for Aston Martin from the neutrals in the paddock, and a fear of them from their competitors, exaggerated by their practice-topping times.
“While qualifying still shows that there is an outright pace deficit to the Red Bulls and even the Ferraris, the race-pace is what had stood out more in testing, and we saw that come to fruition on Sunday.”
Alonso’s route to the top-three finish was not conventional, however, as he was tagged by team-mate Lance Stroll on the opening lap which saw him drop to seventh place.
After that, he battled both Mercedes drivers as well as compatriot Carlos Sainz, while also benefitting from the retirement of Charles Leclerc.
Palmer is confident that Alonso’s race would’ve been much more straightforward if contact with his team-mate had been avoided.
“Had Fernando not been hit by his team-mate Lance Stroll on the opening lap, things might have played out more routinely for the Spaniard,” he said.
“As it was, it was fantastic for us that he did lose places to the Mercedes, because it was the catalyst for a spectacular charge towards a podium that surely would have been comfortable without the collision.
“Whenever I was racing with Alonso wheel-to-wheel, he was always a different competitor compared to others I was up against.
“He has an incredible ability to read racing situations, has immense peripheral vision, and he can think a few corners ahead when trying to plan out a clinical overtake.
“Even at 41, those are exactly the qualities he displayed on Sunday.”
Alonso’s last race victory came at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, almost exactly 10 years ago.
Aston Martin has yet to take a win since taking over the Racing Point squad in 2021, but Palmer has backed the Spaniard to climb to the top step of the podium at some point this year.
“Aston Martin have given themselves a wonderful baseline for the year though, and with considerably more development time than their front-running rivals, you have to believe that this could be the year Alonso breaks his long win draught,” he said.