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Formula 1

Aston’s F1 transformation still isn’t enough to satisfy Stroll

by Matt Beer, Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

The contrast between Aston Martin’s position when the 2023 Formula 1 world championship resumes at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix next weekend and its position at the same point a year ago is almost laughably impressive.

After round three this year: Second in the constructors’ championship, three podiums from three races.

After round three last year: Absolutely last, zero points, fresh from a particularly destructive and calamitous Melbourne weekend.

And with the team’s game-changing new factory still under construction and new driver Fernando Alonso having barely had the chance to even settle into Aston Martin yet, there should still be a lot more to come.

Which is just as well, because the way team principal Mike Krack depicts owner Lawrence Stroll’s approach to the turnaround so far, no one at Aston Martin is going to be allowed to settle for ‘just’ the 2022-to-2023 transformation. Being ahead of schedule now is great, but has to be considered just the start, not a mission accomplished.

“Lawrence’s mission statement is very clear,” said Krack. “He has not been having any delay in telling us, when are we going to win the next one?

“Obviously he is happy that we have made a step. But this is not enough for his ambitions.

“And the good thing is with Lawrence, you know where you’re standing. He wants more and we will have to deliver more.”

There was an air of that when Krack replied to a question about Alonso’s trio of podiums from 2023’s first three races by joking “no, we should have won all three!”.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Race Day Melbourne, Australia

But he also suggested that podium rate was something Aston Martin probably wouldn’t be achieving without Alonso.

“It shows what a champion we have there,” said Krack. “It’s just incredible. his consistency. If you look at all the sessions so far throughout the year, he has always been there. In every session, in every free practice one, free practice two, he is always up there, and pushes at maximum all the time.”

Once Aston Martin actually started scoring points last season, it did so at the majority of subsequent races – but there were an awful lot of 10th places in there. The best it could manage championship-wise was to claw its way back to seventh, losing sixth on countback to Alfa Romeo.

Krack still feels that the 2022 recovery – which included a substantial change of car spec for the Spanish GP in May, one that was so drastic the team admitted it was almost like going back to an untried launch spec – proved Aston Martin’s development capacity. That doesn’t mean he’s taking it as evidence his team can stay among the frontrunners this season.

“In a cost cap environment, with such intensity of racing, you have to start with a good car, because to play catch-up along the year – and if you are down on points, as we have seen last year – it’s quite impossible, because there was not much to score. Even if you had the fourth-fastest car last year, you were just not scoring enough to make up for any gaps.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Race Day Melbourne, Australia

“So we have managed last year to develop the car substantially. Now we start obviously from a higher baseline. So it will be not as easy as it was last year.

“But we have to make progress to stay where we are because if you don’t do anything, we will go back.

“So I’m quite confident that we can bring performance upgrades onto the car. But because everything is relative, only time will tell if this is sufficient or not.”

Mindset-wise, Krack says Aston Martin hasn’t changed much in how it goes about its F1 weekends even though it is in a very different place to this time a year ago.

The differences, he feels, are that any slip-ups it makes are now going to be under a far harsher spotlight, but that for now at least, talking about the team’s performances is rather more enjoyable than it was in 2022.

“You will be surprised, it’s not that different, you know, because we have a very dedicated team that is always trying to achieve the maximum wherever they are,” said Krack of the difference in feeling inside the team from 2022 to 2023.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Race Day Melbourne, Australia

“So the approach is not that much different.

“Obviously, you are much more exposed. If we make mistakes on pitstops or on strategy, it is maybe spotted more than it would potentially have been before.

“But other than that the job itself is not very different.

“It’s easier to speak about three podiums than what we spoke about 12 months ago That was very difficult.”

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