Aston Martin has made great strides but is still a long way from being an established top team in Formula One, as team principal Mike Krack explains.
Aston Martin surprised with podium finishes at the start of 2023 after finishing 2022 in a meagre seventh place. A resurgent Fernando Alonso, who switched from Alpine to Aston Martin, has finished in one of the top three places six times so far, although the Silverstone team fell further and further behind towards the end of the pre-summer break section of the season.
Mercedes and Ferrari, meanwhile, have taken steps to put Aston Martin in their place, while McLaren also made a notable car upgrade to firmly establish themselves in the Red Bull chasing pack.
Now there are unanswered questions about Aston Martin’s recent upgrades, as it is believed that the team had to change its front wing to flexible wings due to an FIA ruling. As a result, Aston Martin had to let Mercedes go in the fight for second place and now feels Ferrari breathing down its neck in the battle for third. The Scuderia is now only five points behind when the second half of the season begins in the Dutch dunes of Zandvoort.
While the initial excitement over Aston’s turnaround has died down, Alonso still believes the first half of the 2023 season has been “incredible” for the team. However, Krack admits that the team still has a long way to go to be in the same league as Mercedes and Ferrari, who both underperformed earlier in the year.
Krack: “Still a long way to go “
“We still have a long way to go. We have only taken one step,” Krack said in an interview with ‘Autosport’,
“Progress will not be linear. There will be moments when you outgrow yourself, like at the beginning of the year. But you’re also going to have moments where you underperform, simply because you’re also influenced by how other people perform, which you have no control over.”
“So it’s important to look at yourself and recognise progress. And that’s not always going to lead to a higher ranking. It’s fair to say we’ve made a step. But we also know we need to take a few more steps to keep up with teams like Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. “
What the handicap rule has to do with it
One factor that has helped Aston Martin’s bid for 2023 is Formula One’s Aerodynamic Testing Restriction (ATR), which either disadvantages or helps teams by awarding wind tunnel time and CFD testing based on the previous year’s constructors’ championship, giving the lowest-ranked teams a boost as they try to catch up.
On 1 July 2022, when the table was redrawn for the second half of the year, Aston Martin was in eighth place, receiving 105 per cent of the base level of development time, compared to 70 per cent for Red Bull, 75 per cent for Ferrari and 80 per cent for Mercedes.
The yellow highlighted line shows how much less wind tunnel and CFD time RedBullRacing is allowed to invest as World Championship leader anyway than the others. Applies until at least 1 July 2023, when there will be a reshuffle based on WRC standings. F12023 F1 Formula1 pic.twitter.com/DFqlbRxY2s
– Christian Nimmervoll (@MST_ChristianN) October 28, 2022
Aston Martin improved just one position towards the end of the championship, with the seventh final position still equating to 100 per cent for the first six months of 2023. After an excellent first half of the season, Aston Martin were in third place by 1 July, just behind Mercedes, which reduces their development time for the remainder of 2023 to 80 per cent.
The coming months will therefore be a tougher test for the Silverstone-based team, which will have to live up to the efficient reputation it built up in the cash-strapped days of Force India and Racing Point.
What are the next important steps
Aston Martin has come on leaps and bounds since Lawrence Stroll took over, however, and has gradually begun the process of moving to its new state-of-the-art headquarters at Silverstone. The team has also gained the resources and attraction to poach top talent from rival teams, such as Technical Director Dan Fallows from Red Bull and his deputy Eric Blandin, who joined from Mercedes.
Further optimisation and improvement of the overall structure and methodology remains a priority for Krack to become a truly top team in the long run: “Continuity, development of the team, development of the tools, development of the processes,” Krack summarises the next steps.
“We’re still reshaping part of our organisation to identify areas where we can get better so we have the firepower we need when there’s a rule change or we need to react quickly.”
“You have to set realistic goals. But that’s also why you have people like Dan and Eric. They have so much experience that they know what’s feasible and what’s not.” He adds, “We’re not there yet. Yes, the car was very good at the beginning of the season, but others have caught up now. That also shows us our limits very quickly.”
“There are teams that are always at the top and we have to show that before we talk about 100 races or five-year plans. We are not a top team. You have to develop your team first to play in this league. We are not at that level. “
New personnel must not cost too much
Poaching top talent from Red Bull and Mercedes will help close the gap, but relying only on expensive external staff is not a sustainable strategy given the cost pressures in F1. The team is well aware of that.
“I think you need experienced people at the top. But it doesn’t have to be the superstars with the big chequebooks,” Krack stresses. “I think it’s important that if we want to build a sustainable future for our team, the growth has to come from the grassroots. With the graduates, the best people from the universities. This is where the future lies. You can buy short-term success with the big chequebooks, but you can’t buy sustainable success.”
Krack concedes that there is “no miracle solution” to catching up with the dominant Red Bull team, apart from trying to gradually improve the way the team works in each department. “There is no miracle,” he says. “First of all, they have an outstanding driver, which we also have.”
“At the end of the day, you see that they have a car that is just a little bit better in all areas, and the sum of all those little improvements makes the difference. I would hate to see them win all the races, but they are well on their way there. So let’s try to disrupt as much as possible!”