'Wait and see': Alonso plays down challenge to F1's big three

Fernando Alonso made light of his performance on Friday evening after a dazzling display under the floodlights for Aston Martin to shake up expectations in second practice at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The evergreen 41-year-old Spaniard, in his first competitive outing with the Silverstone team since replacing retired four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, clocked a best lap in one minute and 30.907 seconds.

It was enough to beat Red Bull's defending double world champion Max Verstappen by 0.169 seconds and confirm that a significant change of the established order may be in the air.

But the wily Alonso, world champion in 2005 and 2006, refused to join the early clamour for a team to disrupt Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes' expected continued domination of the sport.

"The car feels good and it is obviously another step in the right direction," he said.

"It is good, but we must wait and see. There is a lot we want to do and we have to take our time and still change some things.

"Let's see what happens in the first few races before we say anymore."

Twenty-two years after making his debut for Minardi in Melbourne, Alonso proved again that, given the car, he can match the best as he drove with the enthusiasm of a man half his age.

He also paid tribute to the ambition of team owner Candian billionaire Lawrence Stroll whose ambition had persuaded him to leave Alpine and join his project last year.

"We have to see what his vision brings now," said Alonso, who is not the only key signing made to help transform Aston Martin into serious rivals to the top teams.

Stroll has declared he wants to see the team winning races before 2025.

The team also recruited Red Bull's former head of aerodynamics Dan Fallows in 2021 and he started affecting design and performance last year as the outfit's new technical director.

After last week's three-day pre-season test in Bahrain, Fallows told reporters the team had been set "aggressive targets" and had met them so far.

"We are pleased with our goal," he said. "We targeted making a big step up so in terms of performance, relative to that, we're definitely happy. But in terms of where we are relative to other people -- really, we don't know."

Sergio Perez was third in the second Red Bull, just 0.002 seconds adrift of his team-mate, but six-tenths clear of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Haas and Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin.

Pierre Gasly was seventh in his first day with the Alpine team ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, Lando Norris of McLaren and Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo.