[Aston Martin accepts F1 rivals did a “stronger job” developing 2023 cars
Aston came flying out of the gates in Bahrain, with its lead driver Fernando Alonso racking up five podiums in the first six races.
But over the summer the going got tougher for the Silverstone squad, with it especially slipping back on mixed corner circuits where aerodynamic efficiency comes at a premium, as Alonso was restricted to just one more podium in eight races.
In the meantime, it has also lost touch with Mercedes in the constructors’ table and is instead looking over its shoulder at the resurgent McLaren team.
Aston’s performance director Tom McCullough admitted the team has not developed as strongly as hoped, and that rival teams who started the season on the back foot have done a better job of catching up.
“There are definitely some teams at the start of the year who were underperforming, who were taking a step back, we knew that they’d get back on top of that, most notably McLaren and Mercedes,” he replied when asked by Motorsport.com if Aston was expecting others to catch up after its rapid start.
“At the start of the year, we were a little bit surprised to be the second or third fastest team, but the margins between the second, third and fourth fastest teams were always very small. And we’re always very aware that it doesn’t take much to fall to the back of that pack.
“And then just from a pure development race, bringing bits to the car, making the car quicker, it was a relative game. Some teams have been doing a stronger job than we have, we have to accept that.
“We obviously hoped to develop stronger than we’ve ended up developing.”
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
The team has repeatedly stated the technical directives introduced in Singapore were not a contributing factor in its downturn in form.
But the squad now feels it has a good understanding of its weaknesses, so it can deliver a 2024 car that is more efficient and can be more competitive on circuits that combine severe downforce requirements with straightline speed and low-speed handling.
“The TD has had no impact on our performance,” McCullough added. “I don’t think they’re significant. For us, it’s more track characteristics and base development race that we’re sort of fighting with.
“There are certain characteristics of our car that we understood right from the first test and race, the strengths and weaknesses of the car. And we’ve been trying to address those areas that we weren’t as competitive in.
“Our job is to try to make the car quick on all 23 circuits, and we’ve still got plenty of work to do on that.
“Aerodynamically we have a good understanding of how the car’s performing through the ride height and speed ranges. And we know the areas that we want to improve, so that process is ongoing, and we still have a few more bits coming this year to help with that understanding.”
Aston particularly struggled in Japan, where Alonso battled to eighth place, 1m14.725s behind winner Max Verstappen, and team-mate Lance Stroll retired with a broken rear wing.
But the team is expecting its form to pick up at this weekend’s race in Qatar, as Losail’s high downforce circuit doesn’t emphasise aerodynamic efficiency as much as Suzuka did.
“Qatar is quite different in the way that it’s predominantly high-speed corners, and the efficiency of the cars not as important so you’ll be up on rear wing level,” McCullough explained.
“One of the things we were struggling with [in Japan] is being competitive in both high-speed corners and low-speed corners, and in a straight line.
“Qatar is very different in that respect. Yes, there are cars that are faster in high-speed corners, so there’ll be fast, but hopefully, we can be a bit more competitive.”