Alonso hails 'my hero' Stroll as Aston Martin shine in Bahrain

Fernando Alonso stormed to a spectacular 99th podium finish of his career in Sunday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix before heaping praise on team-mate Lance Stroll, describing him as "my hero".

The 41-year-old Spaniard, a two-time world champion who took a two-year break from Formula One before returning in 2021, finished a stunning third for Aston Martin behind the Red Bulls of double world champion Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Starting from fifth on the grid, he had a poor start, but then rolled back the years with a dazzling drive exactly 22 years after he made his Formula One debut at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

"First of all, my congrats to my team-mate Lance. Twelve days ago, he had surgery and now he is fighting here right with everybody. It's amazing for the team," said Alonso of his teammate who was sixth on Sunday.

He said it was unreal that Aston Martin, who finished 12th and 17th in last year's Bahrain race, had produced the second fastest car at the opening race.

"It's been a great weekend," he said.

He added that Stroll's gutsy performance and determination to race, just two weeks after cracking both wrists and breaking a toe in a pre-season cycling accident, was inspirational.

"He's my hero! If you had seen his hand and his feet, you think he cannot race. He is phenomenal and it's inspiring to see his determination and motivation. He deserves a good podium very soon."

Alonso's podium finish was only his second in 122 races and came in his first outing with Aston Martin since transferring from Alpine to succeed retired four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.

"Obviously, I would love to start in front of the Red Bulls and Ferraris and use our pace, but we had not the best of starts and so I had to pass cars on track.

"It meant it was a bit more exciting and more adrenaline for me for sure. Hopefully, everyone enjoyed it. We did! Let's enjoy it together."

Stroll, son of the team's owner Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, said he had been in pain in the final laps.

"Aside from the pain, it was fun, but I was grinding it out to the end for the result," he said.

"Considering everything that happened over the last two weeks, I couldn't move. Ten days ago, I couldn't walk, I couldn't move and both hands were vegetables.

"I didn't think I would be here right now -- so it's amazing going to pick up these points and it is a great start to the season."