For an outfit that finished seventh in the standings last term, it emerged as the surprise package, the team closest to troubling Red Bull.
In the past five grands prix, an Aston Martin driver has only achieved a top-three finish once. Alonso’s second place in Canada breaks the pattern of two seventh-place finishes, a ninth-place finish, and a fifth-place finish on his side of the garage.
Mercedes was leading in points until the Spain race, but now the team based in Silverstone is in third place, trailing the Silver Arrows by 39 points. However, Ferrari’s slower speed, questionable strategy, and poor execution during pitstops have taken off some of the pressure from behind.
Aston is surpassing expectations this season in comparison to the previous one. Its remarkable beginning to the campaign caught both the paddock and the audience off guard.
If someone on the team had been given a series of 11 consecutive point-scoring results in late 2022, despite the decrease in performance, it would have been seen as a definite success.
The Hungarian GP last weekend was anticipated both externally and internally to have arrested any results decline. A low-speed circuit nature was expected to have suited the AMR23’s strong downforce and mechanical grip, while mitigating its straight-line efficiency deficiencies. However, Alonso led Lance Stroll for a muted 9-10 finish.
Alonso mentioned at Silverstone that the team should reach the summer break before starting anew. In Budapest, he further stated that Aston was presently ranked fifth in terms of speed.
The champion who has won twice mentioned: “It is a bit challenging for us to have a clearer understanding of the current performance of the car compared to the start of the season. We also need to assess the number of upgrades we have introduced in comparison to our main rivals, as well as comprehend the new tires more effectively. These tires are identical for all participants, so our focus should be on improving our performance.”
His superiors are not panicking at all. They also dismiss his proposal that the enhanced Pirelli tire structure, which was implemented for the British GP, has specifically affected Aston and Red Bull negatively. Tom McCullough, the performance director, affirms that there have been no significant alterations in performance.
Fernando Alonso, driving the Aston Martin AMR23, exits his pit area following a pit stop.
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Instead, senior officials attribute the decline to the current level of competition in the field. They assert that Aston Martin has not actually fallen behind. In fact, it may now be closer to Red Bull compared to the beginning of the season. However, the varying schedules of teams introducing upgrade packages have resulted in more cars bridging the gap to the RB19s.
Team principal Mike Krack explains: “If you see the gap that we have to the front row [in Hungary], this gap has not increased. It is actually smaller than it was. With the gap that we had, a couple of races ago you were qualifying P4 or P3. And now it’s only good enough for eighth, which shows the density of the performance at the moment.
“Due to the high density of the grid nowadays, any errors result in losing a few positions… It truly relies on ensuring everything is perfect.”
His comments tally with Alonso losing time at two corners during Q3 in Hungary, a session in which the top 10 was covered by just 0.577s. The Spaniard ran to eighth on the day, but had he strung together his three fastest sectors from the shootout then he would have been fifth.
Underlying Krack’s case, for the Bahrain season-opener, polesitter Max Verstappen lapped 0.014s adrift of his ideal lap time in Q3 to secure pole. Alonso was 0.064s down on his to start fifth. The theoretical gap between the pair was 0.578s.
During the recent race in Hungary, Verstappen encountered delays in both the initial and final parts of his second Q3 lap. If he had performed flawlessly, he would have secured pole position, surpassing Lewis Hamilton by a margin of 0.236s instead of losing it to the Mercedes driver by a mere 0.003s. Similarly, had Alonso executed his lap perfectly, he would have trailed Verstappen by 0.56s. Consequently, according to the team manager’s suggestion, Aston Martin’s decline in performance cannot be attributed to losing ground against Red Bull.
By leaving time on the table, it allowed the upgraded McLarens and the shock showing from both Alfa Romeos to shuffle Alonso back to an arguably unrepresentative grid slot. Further underlining how close all contenders were, as enhanced by the Alternative Tyre Allocation format trialled for the first time last weekend, George Russell was only 18th. Sergio Perez clocked ninth.
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
It could also be suggested that the limited space at the Hungaroring track, the majority of drivers choosing harder tires for the race and focusing on conserving them and finding open space, along with the additional DRS zone after Turn 1 that prevented cars from retaliating when overtaken, restricted Alonso’s ability to make a comeback on Sunday.
Aston is planning to introduce improvements in the near future. McCullough, before the Spa race, confirms: “We will be bringing updates to most of the upcoming races, just like other teams.” It is possible that the gap to Red Bull will decrease. If the drivers have flawless weekends, they may achieve more podium finishes.
Krack states that the competition is intense and we must stay ahead. We should acknowledge that other teams have made significant progress as well. McLaren, in particular, has made impressive updates. We must make an effort to catch up with them. This is a common occurrence in Formula 1, and it’s important to remain humble and realistic about our position. It’s crucial not to be overly disappointed or excessively excited.