“Anyone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves won’t believe it” says the team boss of Aston Martin Racing. Is there a “huge momentum” at Aston Martin, enough to actually challenge for the Formula 1 driver’s championship?
German F1 Sky pundit Marc Surer thinks that team boss Mike Krack and engineer Tom McCullough talk about Aston Martin’s potential advantage is down to the development race. Does Fernando Alonso still have a chance against Red Bull in the world title fight this year? It is possible…
Can Aston Martin close the seemingly large gap to Red Bull and become Formula One world champion in 2023 with Fernando Alonso?
“That’s a good question,” grins team boss Mike Krack: “We’re in the middle of the development race, and we’re fighting with people who have different firepower than us. In terms of people, in terms of infrastructure, simply also because they know the situation better.”
But could Krack be doing his team an injustice… after all there are good reasons to think the development war might mean the green team from Silverstone could have a significant advantage rather than a disadvantage.
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Keeping feet on the ground
Krack, therefore, warns against too much euphoria surrounding Alonso’s two podium finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which have anchored Aston Martin in second place in Formula One’s new pecking order for the time being:
“I think we should be careful with predictions…”
But Krack makes no secret of the fact that Aston Martin is euphoric and currently riding a wave of (unexpected) success: “It’s incredible. Anyone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves won’t believe it. There’s a huge momentum in the team, a huge energy.”
Already on Sunday evening in Jeddah, Krack said he was looking forward to “going into work on Monday, because everyone is working at full throttle right now. Sometimes we have to remind people to go home to their families as well. […] It’s a real pleasure to work in this team at the moment.”
Aston Martin data from Saudi Arabia
In the Saudi Arabia race pace rankings, based on data from technology company PACETEQ, Aston Martin was second, 0.6 seconds behind Red Bull but 0.2 seconds ahead of Mercedes and even 0.4 seconds ahead of Ferrari.
In this respect, realistically speaking, it is probably presumptuous to dream of a real chance at the world championship title.
Marc Surer sees such a chance only “if the others drop out. I don’t think Alonso can do it on his own,” he says in a recent interview on the situation at Aston Martin on the YouTube.
Only “if it now turns out that Red Bull is susceptible to defects, then he will get a chance,” Surer says.
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Aston Martin’s advantage is 59 percent greater than Red Bull
Aston Martin’s big chance in 2023 could lie in the fact that the team is allowed to use more wind tunnel and CFD resources than Red Bull in a direct comparison. Red Bull’s coefficient for calculating these values is 63 due to Formula 1’s budget penalty and handicap rule, while Aston Martin’s is 100. That’s 59 percent more test runs and simulation for new parts and development.
The advantage could be particularly great in the first half of the year, when the FIA’s handicap calculation is still based on the result of the 2022 Constructors’ World Championship.
This will be adjusted on July 1, 2023, for the second half of the year to the then current World Championship standings. As things stand today, Red Bull’s coefficient would remain at 63, but Aston Martin’s would be reduced from 100 to 75.
This is Aston Martin’s “big chance”.
This is “absolutely the big chance” for Aston Martin and “the big advantage because they were ranked so far behind last year,” Surer believes.
Red Bull’s budget penalty, reduced by ten percent from 70 to 63 “could of course prevent Red Bull from following suit if Aston Martin takes a step forward.”
“On the other hand, I ask myself: what else do you want to improve on this car?”
After all, he says, one must not forget that Aston Martin is also bound by the budget cap: “You can’t just build parts, even if you have the wind tunnel available. After all, that all costs money.”
Aston Martin: Ferrari is faster in qualifying
And indeed, even the team at Aston Martin believes that the AMR-23 is much closer to the technical maximum compared to the 2022 model. They came to Saudi Arabia with a “much more competitive” basis than in 2022:
“We’re much better in the fast corners,” confirms Performance Director Tom McCullough, for example.
In comparison, they were in a much worse position in 2022 and therefore naturally had much more room for improvement:
“The car wasn’t particularly fast on the straights either. So we had to take wings down to avoid losing too much top speed. It was really a very difficult start to the season for us last year.”
“Ferrari,” McCullough says, is “a little bit faster than us, at least in qualifying. There’s not much between us and Mercedes. They’re just small gaps.” But, “While they are very, very unhappy with their performance, we are extremely happy. […] Over time, it’s already possible that something will shift there in the development race.”
Aston Martin: “We underperformed in Bahrain”.
“Our goal is to continue to develop this car like hell and get as close as we can. They’re not going to stand still, though. They’re already ahead of us, especially on a lap. It will be very difficult to match the development rate of Ferrari and Mercedes. Not to mention Red Bull. But we’re going to give it our all from week to week,” says McCullough.
McCullough is relieved that the modest qualifying result in Bahrain (P5), measured against the AMR-23’s race potential, was improved in Saudi Arabia (P3).
“In Bahrain, we underperformed. We had set the car up very much for the race and it wasn’t the cleanest qualifying. In Saudi Arabia, we did better to get the maximum out of it.”
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Krack doubts Aston Martin is really second fastest
In any case, team boss Mike Krack is trying to keep his head down and not get infected by the euphoria surrounding Aston Martin:
“We want to wait for the first few races to see where we really stand. I’d be careful about saying that we’re second. But we’ve certainly made a substantial step forward.”
“In Bahrain, we were less competitive in the fast corners than in other passages. But there, a lot was held back by everyone. So you don’t really know,” says Krack.
He continues: “We’ll work hard to reduce the gap further. Last year we showed that we can do that. But that doesn’t automatically mean we’ll succeed again this year.”
The reason Aston Martin might win
The time to develop the car under the restrictions does, however, mean Aston Martin can use far more CFD and wind tunnel time than the competition, but as Surer earlier alluded to, the budget cap could prevent that advantage from being used. However, there is information to suggest that this is perhaps not the case.
Back in the Autumn, this website was contacted by a source within Aston Martin suggesting that tactics were being used to negate the budget cap, we duly reported on this in January this year. Former Aston Martin team boss Otmar Szafnauer who moved this year to Alpine Renault, also suggested this loophole in the regulations on two occasions now this year.
If indeed true, the allowed development time could be used to its fullest advantage, at least for the first half of this year.
They may have more wind tunnel & CFD time than most critically RBR (& most likely will also have for this year’s latter six months), but I doubt they can win either championship.
Aston Martin’s handicap in any aspirations it may have to winning the World Championship is its firmly ensconced second driver.