Fernando Alonso was cautious about Aston Martin's chances at challenging Red Bull at the opening round of the 2023 Formula 1 season.
During the qualifying simulations, Alonso was 0.169s quicker than Max Verstappen, having completed three laps before his timed run while the Red Bull driver only did two on the Soft tyres.
Later in the session the pair completed race runs on the Soft, with Alonso again matching Verstappen in the mid 1m37s - the Aston Martin appearing to drop off towards the end of the session by three tenths.
Despite the impressive run of pace, Alonso still hailed Aston Martin's progress as a "step in the right direction" but did not elaborate on their hopes for the weekend.
"It's another step into the right direction, the car still feels good. We need to wait and see," he said in an interview with Sky Sports F1.
"At the moment there is not much focus on times because we have to improve few things on the car, in terms of setup.
"It's very early days and we still, even on the meetings and on the approach to racing, we're still changing a lot of things and trying to reinforce the team in every area, not only on the car performance.
"It's going to be a very interesting process. But I think the team is, is learning everything."
Viewed by others:
Alonso: Lawrence has vision for team
A lot of investment has been put into Aston Martin's facilities since the takeover from Lawrence Stroll, with the team only months away from moving into their new wind tunnel facilities.
Alonso believes it will be "only a matter of time" before Aston Martin starts to challenge the top teams.
He added: "Let's see what happens in the in the first couple of races, at the moment its only good test sessions.
"I think Lawrence has this vision on everything he does and it's very difficult to see him fail on anything that he has into his vision.
"I think it's a matter of time before Aston Martin could challenge top teams. But still a long way to go."