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Alonso not targeting Bahrain GP pole position despite table-topping FP2 performance

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Fernando Alonso has cautioned that it remains “very early days” for Aston Martin after his pace-setting performance during practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, though conceded the showing represents “another step” forward.

Off the back of a strong pre-season, and with plenty of rivals talking up their pace, Alonso and Aston Martin continued to impressed at the Sakhir circuit on Friday – the Spaniard placing second in FP1 before leading the two Red Bulls in FP2.

READ MORE: Alonso leads Verstappen during second practice in Bahrain as track action ramps up

Meanwhile, team mate Lance Stroll returned to action after suffering a wrist injury while out training and missing last week’s test, completing the top six positions in second practice to underline Aston Martin’s strong start.

Asked by Sky Sports F1 how much can be read into his and the team’s Friday pace, Alonso said: “Well, obviously, it’s another step into the right direction. The car still feels good, but we need to wait and see.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 03: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR23 Mercedes

Alonso and Aston Martin led the way under the lights in Bahrain on Friday night

“At the moment, there is not much focus still on times. We have to improve a few things on car in terms of set-up, but also it’s very early days.

“Even in the meetings, the approach to racing, we’re still changing a lot of things and trying to reinforce the team in every area, not only car performance. It’s going to be a very interesting process, but I think the team is learning every day.”

READ MORE: ‘They could be a real surprise’ – Red Bull and Ferrari talk up Aston Martin’s chances ahead of 2023 opener

Asked if he expected to be in this position so quickly, with Aston Martin looking to move forward from successive P7 finishes in the constructors’ standings, Alonso added: “Well, let’s see what happens in the first couple of races. At the moment it’s only good test sessions.

“I think Lawrence [Stroll, Aston Martin CEO] has this vision on everything he does. It’s very difficult to see Lawrence Stroll failing on anything that he has into his vision. I think it’s a matter of time that Aston Martin could challenge the top teams.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 03: Lance Stroll of Canada and Aston Martin F1 Team prepares to drive in

A positive first day for Aston Martin was capped off by Stroll returning to action

“We’re in a very interesting process with a completely new car, new technical department, and a lot of things we are learning, but there’s still a long way to go.”

Pushed if this is the best car he’s had out of the box over the last 10 years, Alonso said: “I will lie if I say it’s not feeling good, but everything is relative to what the other teams are doing. You can feel very good on one car, and maybe there are three or four cars faster than you. Let’s see where we are.”

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And does this mean he will be disappointed if he isn’t fighting for pole on Saturday? “No, no, no – not at all. I’m not thinking that high, to be honest. Actually, I don’t know exactly what position will be a good one for us.

“After testing we were thinking to be in Q3 with both cars, score as many points as possible in these first couple of races, try not to make mistakes – it’s very easy to make a mistake.

“It’s a completely new team, new procedures, the team as well, so we have to be with the feet on the ground. The target has to be fighting for the championship, but in the long-term – I don’t think in this year, yet.”

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