Aston Martin reserve writes off McLaren with ‘Mercedes and Ferrari’ the main targets

Michelle Foster
The logo of Aston Martin.

Aston Martin logo.

Bouncing back from last year’s mid-season slump, Stoffel Vandoorne says while Aston Martin believe they’ll be competitive this season, that’s of course relative to Red Bull’s form.

Despite being Red Bull’s closest challenger in the early past of last year’s championship, Fernando Alonso securing six podiums in the first eight races in the AMR23, a car spearheaded by former Red Bull man Dan Fallows, the team lost their way with their mid-season upgrades.

So much so that as McLaren closed in on Aston Martin for fourth in the standings, Lando Norris pipped up with “they seem to have made the car slower and slower with every upgrade that they brought”.

Aston Martin lost out to McLaren last season

Aston Martin admitted they’d got it “wrong” with their development and after a period of on-track R&D went back to what they knew for the final few races of the championship.

That yielded Alonso’s eighth and last podium of the season with his P3 at the Brazilian Grand Prix but alas it wasn’t enough to reclaim fourth place in the standings with Aston Martin finishing the season 22 points behind McLaren.

But having regained lost performance, and learned lessons in the process, there is a glimmer of hope that Aston Martin could again enter the new season as Red Bull’s nearest challenger.

Vandoorne, the team’s test driver, believes there’s hope, although taking on Red Bull for the title will not be easy.

“Honestly, I would say that it was a surprise for us to be so competitive at the beginning of last year,” he said as per Motorsport Week.

“Then, we had a little dip, and then we managed to come back towards the end of the year.

“We learned a lot during that time, but it’s hard to know how competitive we’re going to be at the beginning of the season.”

“The others are not standing still either. Red Bull is a benchmark right now, and it is not an easy benchmark for anyone to beat at the moment.” recommends

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“So for sure they will be there, they are seen as the best at the moment.”

Instead the former McLaren driver believes fighting Mercedes and Ferrari as Aston Martin did in the early part to the season is the team’s main priority with Vandoorne all but writing off McLaren’s challenge.

“But,” he added, “there are big teams like Mercedes and Ferrari, I think the goal is to compete with them on a more regular basis.

“We will have to wait and see exactly where we are.”

Vandoorne’s comments come as Alonso revealed he’d discovered an issue with the new AMR24’s “heavy” steering during his simulator runs.

Putting in the hours ahead of Aston Martin’s launch on 12 February, the Spaniard revealed on a YouTube video posted by the team that there’s still a bit of work to be done with the new car.

“The most noticeable place, so you do Six, then you upshift and then you turn right to do Turn Seven and the steering is quite heavy and it takes a little bit of time,” he said as he lapped one of three unnamed circuits.

He is nonetheless “excited” for the new season with the campaign’s opening practice for the Bahrain GP taking place on 29 February.

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