Aston, the Silverstone squad, displayed a captivating start in Bahrain, catching the attention of many as lead driver Fernando Alonso took home five podiums in the initial six races. However, as the summer progressed, the team faced challenges, most notably on mixed corner circuits. Aerodynamic efficiency, during these rounds, was at a high premium, limiting Alonso to just a single additional podium in the subsequent eight races.
Currently, Aston is considerably behind Mercedes in the constructors’ table, and the increasing pressure from a steadily recovering McLaren team has become a cause for concern. Aston’s performance director, Tom McCullough, conceded that the team’s development hasn’t been as robust as initially planned. He acknowledged that their rivals, who started the season on a shaky note, have made visible improvements.
“We were aware that some teams were underperforming at the beginning of the season and would eventually regain their stride, primarily, McLaren and Mercedes,” McCullough shared in a response to F1 Initiative when questioned about Aston’s expectations following their promising start.
McCullough divulged that they had been somewhat taken aback by their initial standing as the second or third fastest team. However, they were also conscious of the thin lines differentiating the second, third and fourth fastest teams. Falling behind wasn’t hard considering the minor differences in their speeds, he added. McCullough further noted that the issue didn’t lay entirely in the development pace but more so in making the vehicle faster. He confessed, “We definitely wished we had developed stronger than we’ve ended up.”
Despite the technical directives introduced in Singapore not playing any role in their performance decline, the team is confident about their understanding of where their shortcomings lie. Their goal is now to build a 2024 car that exhibits more efficiency and competitiveness in harsh downforce, straight-line speed, and low-speed handling circuits.
McCullough assured, “The TD has not influenced our performance. It’s more about the track characteristics and fundamental development race.” Understanding their car’s strengths and weaknesses from the first test and race, the team has been diligently working to improve their areas of weakness.
Struggles were indeed noticed at the Japanese Grand Prix, where Alonso finished eighth, trailing 1m14.725s behind the winner, Max Verstappen. Additionally, Lance Stroll, Alonso’s teammate, was forced to retire due to a broken rear wing. The team is, however, hopeful about better results at the upcoming Qatar race, where the importance of aerodynamic efficiency is less emphasized than it was in Suzuka.
McCullough explained that Qatar’s high-speed corners and the reduced need for efficiency would work to their advantage. He added, “We were struggling with competitiveness in both high-speed and low-speed corners as well as straight line [in Japan]. Qatar presents a different scenario. Although certain cars are faster in high-speed corners, we hope to be a bit more competitive.”