Hope for Aston Martin at British Grand Prix in mad scramble behind Red Bull

Thomas Maher
Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso on track at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso on track at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Aston Martin’s Tom McCullough is confident his drivers can make progress from their relatively low grid slots for the British Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll line up in ninth and 12th place, respectively, after a comparatively subdued qualifying session for the local team.

Having scored multiple podiums and strong qualifying results in the opening half of the year, the upgrade cycle has seen Aston Martin slip away slightly from the front of the pack as the likes of McLaren and Ferrari have turned up the wick.

What can Aston Martin do from their starting positions?

Speaking to media on Sunday morning ahead of the British Grand Prix, PlanetF1.com asked Aston Martin’s performance director Tom McCullough whether optimism about their race pace might help them overcome their single lap underperformance.

“Obviously, it was real mixed changeable conditions, low temperatures yesterday, and we knew this was really going to be maybe our strongest track either,” he said.

“But a combination of a few factors meant we didn’t get quite as much out of it as we wanted. It was very tight. I do think we’ll be stronger on race day. That’s the aim – get back at some points.

“A lot of teams are really close. It’s pretty good for the fans looking at the race and qualifying yesterday, I think it’s gonna be a good fun race today.”

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Aside from Max Verstappen’s ongoing run at the front of the field, McCullough couldn’t hazard a guess at which team can run Red Bull the closest over the full Grand Prix distance at Silverstone.

“Obviously, Max was the strongest but, after that, there were a lot of teams very close,” he said.

“So it will come down to where you are at the end of the first lap, and how you manage your tyres with much cooler track temperatures. That’s an unknown on these tyres, for everyone.

“We haven’t run long stints, we’ve got 52 laps around a circuit which is really high tyre energy at much lower track temperatures than we’ve ever run on these tyres. So we’re all learning. I think there are several teams really close so it should hopefully be a good race.”

Might Aston Martin try for a different tyre strategy?

Having started the Austrian Grand Prix on hard tyres after committing to an alternative strategy, McCullough was obviously hesitant to reveal whether such a decision might be made for Silverstone in a bid to try something different.

“We discussed, at length, in Austria, what the start tyre was going to be, depending a little bit on the track temperature and the conditions,” he said.

“So the plan was reasonably, for quite a while, to start on the hard, but I’m not going to say it was a simple decision. Here, we’ve been through all the usual – you’ve got three tyres you can start on here based on the performance we’ve seen so far, and there are pros and cons to them all.

“We’ve just finished our strategy meeting, we’ve got a fair idea what the two cars are going to start on, we have an estimate of what we think other people will do. But you never know, until the information comes up on the screen, and there’s often the odd surprise.”

With George Russell having started last year’s British Grand Prix on the hard tyre, only to get caught up in a startline crash after a slow start, McCullough said the decision over which compound to start on is a compromise between speed and longevity.

“The C1 is a different compound, it’s one of the tyres they changed from last year to this year,” he said.

“Here, there’s often racing all the way to nearly the end of the first lap, there are a lot of opportunities to overtake. Harder tyres gonna make that harder. There are pros and cons – after the first lap, you definitely probably don’t want to be on the softer tyres. But the first lap, they’re going to be better. So it’s a compromise.”

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