Fernando Alonso says his Aston Martin team's shock improvement in the 2023 Formula 1 season means it is now one year ahead of schedule in its bid to become a world championship contender.

Alonso joined Aston Martin after a dismal 2022 campaign in which the Silverstone team finished seventh with just 55 points.

While it made encouraging development progress throughout last season, its giant leap in 2023 has been one of the talking points of the year so far, with the Spaniard bagging three consecutive podiums as Aston heads to Baku sitting second in the standings.

The team of ambitious billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll has the long-term aim of challenging for world titles rather than podiums, and team boss Mike Krack already revealed Stroll had been pushing the team to achieve even more and not sit back after its surprisingly strong start.

But according to Alonso, his new outfit's breakthrough over the winter has shortened its planned trajectory to the top by a year.

"I was hoping 2023 to be a learning season and in 2024 maybe to be challenging Ferrari and Mercedes and things like that," said Alonso.

"But we challenged them in Bahrain in race one so obviously now everything looks more optimistic."

Alonso cautioned that the true test of Aston's progress will follow once rival teams start bringing sizeable upgrades and the team's in-season development rate will be put to the test, a process which will begin in Azerbaijan.

Fernando Alonso at Australian GP 2023

"Now we have to deliver. This is something we will see very soon," he added.

"From Baku, Imola, Barcelona, the teams will start to bring upgrades to the car and we need to also be a top team in that regard. On-track, but also off-track we need to learn many things throughout this season to be a contender in 2024 hopefully."

Alonso says the pace of his and team-mate Lance Stroll's AMR23 means the team has been able to change its approach and it now has the luxury to have more breathing space to get through Q1 and Q2, which was a pipe dream in 2022 for Stroll and former partner Sebastian Vettel.

"We approach weekends now looking more to the top teams and that changed our approach a little bit in FP1," Alonso explained.

"It changed our tyre selections for qualifying, the runs you do in qualifying. You don't really need to get too crazy because you know that you will go through Q1 and Q2.

Yes, it's changed a lot and it makes things a little bit easier, so happy with that."

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