Fernando Alonso believes that the battle between Aston Martin and Mercedes has closed up, with the two-time World Champion expecting the contest between them to change "race-by-race".
Alonso claimed his third podium in three races in Melbourne, following race-winner Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton across the line to continue a fine start to his Aston Martin career.
It was the first time any car other than a Red Bull had finished ahead of Alonso in a 2023 race, and the 41-year-old told media, including RacingNews365.com, that he was unsurprised by Mercedes' performance, and expected races to be determined by fine margins going forward.
"No more three Red Bulls on the podium, if Checo was here!" Alonso quipped.
"But I think Mercedes have also been strong in Jeddah, to be honest. I think all of that race on Sunday, I was within one tenth of George, fighting to get this extra five seconds [gap due to the time penalty] or whatever at the end, so it was very, very close.
"It seems that qualifying is quite important now, because race pace is very similar and I think now we enter into a part of the season that is going to be very interesting: which team is developing the car faster?
"I think the first three races being away from Europe, it’s difficult to bring upgrades and things like that. But from now on, maybe we see the level of the teams changing a little bit, race-by-race, depending on who brings an upgrade that is good enough."
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Despite the improved performance from Mercedes, and the ever-present threat from Ferrari, Alonso remained buoyed by Aston Martin's start to the season and vowed to continue 2023 in a "humble manner".
"We never expected to be on the podium, maybe even throughout the season and in three races we have three," added Alonso.
"So everything that comes now is a plus and as I said today, third and fourth is a lot of points so we take every opportunity and we need to learn and we need to grow as a team also maybe now off-track because we are racing against Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, teams that are used to this kind of pace of development and things like that.
"So we take this 2023 in a very humble manner and let’s see how it's going."
Balve Baines is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to dissect the key talking points from the Australian Grand Prix.