Fernando Alonso has dismissed suggestions that he and Aston Martin will be in a position to finish in the top three at this weekend's 2023 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Aston Martin's AMR23 caught the eye during F1's three days of pre-season testing, with several observers suggesting that the Silverstone-based team had made a big step forward since 2022, when they finished seventh in the Constructors' Championship.
Such has been the pace and consistency of the AMR23 that some have even suggested that Aston Martin might be faster than 2022's third-placed team, Mercedes, around the Bahrain International Circuit.
However, Alonso played down suggestions that Aston Martin would be in the hunt for a podium finish this weekend.
"There is nothing really to say," Alonso told media, including RacingNews365.com.
"We will give our best in the race, but [a podium finish] is not the target for us.
"I think we need to keep learning about the car, [we had] only two days of testing with a completely new car, a new package.
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Top three teams 'in another league' - Alonso
Moving to Aston Martin from Alpine for 2023, Alonso completed the lion's share of winter testing for the Silverstone outfit, after teammate Lance Stroll was ruled out of the three-day test with a wrist injury.
As further evidence of Aston Martin's need to manage expectations in Bahrain, the Spaniard also cited the gulf in class last year between F1's top three teams and the rest of the field.
"The top three teams were in another league last year," said Alonso.
"They were sometimes lapping the fourth team, with only seven cars finishing on the same lap, so we cannot make that kind of a step in only one winter.
"We are very happy with the car, but we have to have our feet on the ground and keep working [from] this good baseline."
Key rivals discuss Aston chances
Though Alonso was eager to downplay his team's chances, other drivers were more bullish about Aston Martin's prospects, including reigning World Champion Max Verstappen, who noted that the team was starting to reap the rewards of an ambitious recruitment drive.
"They looked very positive," the Dutchman said of Aston Martin’s pre-season form.
"If you look at the team, they have a real desire, of course of getting to the front.
"They've hired a lot of good people, so it will be interesting to see where they will be, not only now, also in upcoming races and years, but they've had a very positive start."
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc also talked up Aston Martin's chances in Bahrain.
"I think they will be there in the mix. They'll definitely fight at the top, I think," said the Monegasque.
Ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, RacingNews365.com journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth analyse where each of the F1 teams stands after pre-season testing.