Aston Martin Flags Risks in F1 Design Shifts
In the high-stakes world of Formula 1, Aston Martin stands tall as a testament to strategic innovation. A radical transformation, a Red Bull-style design, and an impressive leap from the tail-end to the top have marked their meteoric rise. However, it’s not just about victories; it’s about lessons learned, relentless refinement, and the audacity to challenge the status quo that makes their journey a captivating narrative.
Aston Martin’s technical director, Dan Fallows, anticipates that Formula 1 rival teams will face more difficulty in altering their car designs the longer they delay.
Aston Martin’s strategic decision early last season to shift to a Red Bull-style blueprint paved the way for their radical transformation. They went from being a tail-end team at the advent of the new technical regulations in 2022 to securing four podium finishes in the first five grand prix of this season.
Aston Martin started 2022 with a distinctive sidepod design, characterized by a twin-floor-like appearance due to the pronounced upper bodywork and undercut beneath.
However, a significant design alteration unveiled at the Spanish Grand Prix sparked claims that they had effectively designed a ‘green Red Bull’. Despite these allegations, it’s clear that the design incorporated other innovative elements and has been further refined in 2023. This season has seen Aston Martin emerge as the second strongest team.
Currently enjoying the benefits of acknowledging and rectifying their misguided design approach over a year ago, Aston Martin is outperforming two major teams – Mercedes and Ferrari. These teams seem to be suffering the consequences of persisting with revisions of their original designs.
Fallows, who moved to Aston Martin from Red Bull and made his first major contribution with this year’s car, expressed he’s “not shocked” to see different designs still being explored without a definite reason to change given the extensive work put into them.
He explained, “Once you’ve committed to a particular aerodynamic concept, it’s incredibly challenging to make fundamental changes.”
“Furthermore, you have to be thoroughly convinced that it’s the right course of action.
“We have design differences when compared to, for instance, Ferrari, while our pace is quite similar to Mercedes at present.
“Consequently, I believe it would be challenging for either of these teams to admit that they’ve either taken a wrong turn or they’re unwilling to make changes.
“It will be intriguing to observe if anyone decides to make that shift, but the more time passes, the more difficult it becomes.”
Fallows made these comments at the Miami Grand Prix, the last race before both Mercedes and Ferrari are due to implement significant upgrades.
Their enhancements, originally intended for the now-abandoned Imola race, will not amount to complete B-spec cars. Ferrari is likely to focus on updating its floor and rear suspension, while Mercedes plans to revise the front suspension, introduce a new floor, and update the bodywork.
One of the most fascinating aspects is how much these changes will make the cars resemble the appearance of Red Bull’s RB19. However, crucial aspects of the cars’ operation, such as the underfloor and its mechanical framework, will largely remain separate from the aesthetics.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin continues to avoid deploying a large upgrade package, opting instead to introduce minor updates as they become available. Fallows is of the opinion that due to Aston Martin’s concept being less evolved than Red Bull’s, there is more scope for ongoing improvement.
“We need to evaluate our position in relation to Red Bull, but there are areas where we believe we have a competitive edge,” he stated.
“We also need to fine-tune our car for each specific track, which means there may be aspects, such as performance in low-speed or high-speed corners, where we might not be as competitive as other teams,” he added.
“But I believe the Red Bull concept has been under development for longer than ours.
“We notably shifted to a different concept early last year, so we are still in the process of enhancing that.
“We believe we’ve made a significant leap this year, but there’s still some distance to cover.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t pinpoint one single area that needs improvement. We need to enhance all aspects of our performance,” Fallows concluded.
Fallows feels that the AMR23 currently does not exhibit “any significant weaknesses” but remains cautious of the improvements Mercedes and Ferrari are expected to make as the season advances.
Despite Aston Martin’s commendable performance as the best team after Red Bull, there exists a sizable gap between the two teams. This gap could potentially be bridged by either Mercedes or Ferrari, or both, if they weren’t underperforming.
Fallows asserts that Aston Martin needs to be “at our absolute best” to continue competing with Mercedes and Ferrari. He emphasizes that the team now needs to take the “next step” – committing to continue development of this car throughout the year because it is likely to contribute to the 2024 car.
“We absolutely aim to commence work on next year’s car as early as possible,” he declared.
“Our main objective is to ensure that we don’t undermine the performance of this year’s car.
“Unavoidably, the new car will be an evolution of this year’s model, so any data and updates we gather for this year’s car will certainly be influential.
“We can regard it as a kind of evolutionary step. However, we don’t intend to be any less assertive in our approach to developing this car than we were when entering this year,” he concluded.
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