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Formula 1

How Aston Martin outperformed its car to end its barren run

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Aston Martin emphatically ended its barren start to the Formula 1 season with a double points finish that represented an overachievement rather than a performance breakthrough.

Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll finished eighth and 10th respectively in a car that had mainly vied with Williams to avoid being the slowest at the first three races.

Getting both cars into the top 10 at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix therefore went against the early-season script and the team’s verdict afterwards was that it had outperformed what the car is still truly capable of.

The AMR22 is running in a compromised state because it suffers from aggressive porpoising, and the car is yet to be dramatically changed to address that – even though there were more small updates at Imola, including moving the floor stay further forward to stiffen the floor in a different area.

Vettel made it clear where he thought the balance lies between progress with the car and taking advantage of the circumstances of a rain-hit weekend: “I think it was taking the opportunity.

“Some people did mistakes and we were faultless and did a really good race, managed the tyres well, got the switch to the dries at the right time.

“We were spot on and overachieved. The car doesn’t normally belong there, but there was a chance and we took it.”

Sebastian Vettel Lance Stroll Aston Martin F1

This was a sentiment echoed throughout the team.

The unusual sprint weekend format played into Aston Martin’s hands as it started on the front foot in the wet opening practice session, which was the only track running before qualifying took place – in the dry – on Friday.

Vettel and Stroll both made it through to Q2 as others faltered and Vettel even managed to get into the top 10 shootout with a strong first flying lap in Q2 before the session was red-flagged and then rain removed any opportunity for other drivers to improve.

Unsurprisingly, in a dry sprint race, Vettel slipped backwards. Team principal Mike Krack said that just confirmed the real performance level of the car is still not really any better.

“I don’t think that there is much more pace in the car than previously,” he said.

“A little bit, maybe, but if you look carefully into the sprint, we were having to defend hard.

“There was no chance we were going to finish in the top 10.

“In mixed conditions or difficult conditions is where we thought we need to use our chances as best as we can. In a normal dry race it would have been very, very difficult for us.”

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin Amr22

With rain falling again on Sunday morning, Aston Martin sensed an opportunity to reprise its Friday feat and get back into the top 10.

Krack said that was the message in the team’s briefing: “We had similar conditions on Friday and we do a very good job on Friday, drivers and team, to bring the car higher up than it really was deserving to.

“Then we said, ‘OK, today’s the same. And if we do a job without mistakes, others might make some, then there is a chance to score’.”

Whatever mistakes were made by Aston Martin were kept to a minimum, and offset by a large amount of good work.

For example, Vettel had a small off-track moment towards the end of his stint on intermediates where he took to the run-off at Acque Minerale. But that was nowhere near as impactful on his grand prix as the excellent two-way communication between driver and race enginner in the laps before the switch to slick tyres.

Vettel was the first of the main runners to make the change and that was key to him jumping Kevin Magnussen and even briefly challenging Valtteri Bottas.

The Aston Martin was no match for the Alfa Romeo, especially in the dry, but encouragingly it did seem to have enough to keep the chasing Haas at bay.

Vettel was able to hold Magnussen at arm’s length for much of the second stint and the gap grew considerably when Magnussen was passed by Yuki Tsunoda.

Eventually, Vettel also succumbed to the charging AlphaTauri, but he was able to hold on to eighth ahead of Magnussen – while one place further back, Stroll remained in front of a train of cars including Esteban Ocon, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Lance Stroll Aston Martin F1

The Aston Martins had to be near-perfect to beat a lot of faster machinery for the relatively small reward of five championship points. In the context of the team’s season, though, it felt like a lot more.

Vettel said it was like a victory and the morale boost will surely be comparable, especially as Vettel himself bounced back from a below-par Australian Grand Prix after COVID-19 forced him to miss the opening two races.

“In those conditions I really feel I can make a big difference getting the tyres to work quickly,” he said.

“But then it was important that we had the faster cars behind and we were managing well the tyres until the end.

“I was not sure whether we’d make it, but we did.

“It was a really good race from us. To have both cars in the points, obviously we benefited from the conditions, but we had no mistakes and a really good race.”

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