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Formula 1

Aston’s 2023 nadir sets up test of its true F1 status

by Josh Suttill
5 min read

Aston Martin started the 2023 Formula 1 season so brightly with podiums in five of the first six races so how did it end up with a weekend where seventh place was determined to be good ‘damage limitation’ – and is it a sign it’s being outdeveloped?

Fernando Alonso suffered his joint-weakest qualifying with Aston yet last weekend, ending up ninth on the grid for the British Grand Prix and promising a “defensive” race rather than any kind of recovery.

It was a bleak prediction but one that came true when he spent the opening phase of the race holding off Pierre Gasly’s Alpine – a car Aston has been quicker than every 2023 weekend so far with the potential exception of Barcelona, where Alonso also qualified ninth.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Race Day Silverstone, England

The timing of the virtual and subsequent full safety car helped Alonso to jump the Ferraris and sent Gasly to the other side of the top 10 and on a collision course (multiple times) with Alonso’s team-mate Lance Stroll.

Seventh place for Alonso was therefore probably far better than Aston could have hoped for given its lack of relative performance.

“We did not have the performance we wanted to have come Saturday or Sunday,” Krack summarised after the race.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Race Day Silverstone, England

“To go away scoring more points than Ferrari, you can call it damage limitation.”

McLaren had already leaped ahead of Aston at the Red Bull Ring and that gap only mushroomed at Silverstone with Williams also ahead of Aston for the first time this year, leaving Aston as arguably the seventh-quickest car – or at best with the fifth-quickest, just ahead of Williams and Alpine.

To some for Aston to fall into that kind of region so quickly would have surely been unthinkable for a team that has so regularly been Red Bull’s closest challenger.

But it’s the kind of performance fluctuation and pecking order changes Krack had warned about earlier in the season.

“I always said ‘you cannot have all the time podiums, there will be moments where it’s more difficult’ and we now had a race where clearly on Saturday we didn’t have the pace we wanted to have,” Krack explained.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Practice Day Silverstone, England

“Going into Sunday we had to rely on our strengths which is pitstops, race starts, execution and strategy and it played out well, all of this we could rely on today. It allowed us to still come home with decent points.”

So was it the characteristics of Silverstone’s high-speed corners that led to Aston’s 2023 nadir or has it been leapfrogged by its rivals?

“Probably is a little bit of everything,” Alonso said when asked why Aston was off the pace at Silverstone.

“[We’ve been] outdeveloped a little bit in terms of few teams brought some significant upgrades lately.

“Track-specific, I think here was not our best layout for the package that we have.

“We need to see also the tyres, obviously the first race that we have this new construction.

“So things that maybe we need to analyse more in detail but all in all I think we saved a very difficult weekend. Hopefully in Hungary we are again competitive.”

When Aston took its monumental leap up the pecking order over the winter immediate questions were raised over its capacity to keep up with the big teams in the all-important development race.

But neither Alonso nor Krack are panicking that a couple of off weekends are indicative that it hasn’t been able to.

“To be honest I’m not one to stress about the development,” Alonso said.

Fernando Alonso Aston Martin F1

“The car is better than expected this year. We are fighting for things that we could probably never dream at the beginning of the year. So now, if we can keep in the top 10 and fighting with the top guys, it’s great.

“But I think we have to focus as well on the long-term picture. We cannot get stressed every weekend if we are seventh or if we are fourth or if we are in the podium.

“We need to be very pragmatic and very relaxed about our performance.”

Krack also suggested the order of the calendar was front-loaded with tracks that suited the Aston perhaps better than the average circuit.

One of those advantageous circuits though is up next, the Hungaroring – often compared to Monaco, where Alonso was second behind Verstappen – with its medium-speed corners that should suit the Aston better than the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Qualifying Day Silverstone, England

“We’re realists, we have never been dreamers. So we will look at the track, we will look at our car, how to set it up for that,” Krack said when The Race suggested Hungary would suit the team’s car better.

“If you look at the characteristic it should play better to our car than other circuits.”

The team also has upgrades coming to each of the next three races following the introduction of a significant package at the Canadian GP last month where Alonso also finished second.

So whether those upgrades can propel Aston back towards the front of the ‘best of the rest’ group – particularly away from favourable circuits like the Hungaroring – will provide a proper test of whether this new-look Aston Martin can keep up with its rivals in the all-important development race.

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