The Mercedes W14’s main strength that Aston Martin are currently missing

Michelle Foster
Fernando Alonso racing against Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, up the inside. Bahrain March 2023

Neither Mercedes nor Aston Martin have managed to get a march on Red Bull.

Although Fernando Alonso overtook both Mercedes drivers as he worked his way to the podium in Bahrain, Felipe Drugovich doesn’t believe the W14 is as bad a car as the current tale of gloom would have one believe.

Unable to match the pace of Red Bull in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, as it was for every other team, there’s been a lot of talk since about Mercedes binning their current car and introducing a new concept.

The team is of course hampered in that by the budget cap as it all but prevents teams from putting out a full B-spec car midway through the season but it does seem only a matter of time before Mercedes start the process.

Drugovich, though, reckons their W14 isn’t as poor as it’s being made out to be.

Speaking to F1TV after Sunday’s race, he said: “No especially if you look at them from the first day of testing, you can see they really improved.

“I think like last year they started really bad, but they are able to make the steps forward so I think they can make good steps forward during the season.

“They were up against some very fast green cars today so they couldn’t really show their full potential I would say.

“But I think on the hards they are really good. They were matching pretty much Ferrari’s pace and from now on they’re going to only start to grow as well.”

The Aston Martin reserve driver believes it was Alonso’s strategy that allowed him to get the jump on first George Russell and later Lewis Hamilton.

Although the double World Champion lined up ahead of the Mercedes team-mates, he lost positions on the opening lap when he was tagged by his own team-mate Lance Stroll and fell to seventh.

He worked his way onto the podium by passing Russell, then Hamilton and finally Carlos Sainz.

“I think we always managed to be a bit quicker especially because every pit stop we were making was a bit later so every time we put up to them, we had probably two or three laps of advantage,” Drugovich explained.

Alonso’s first stint on the soft tyres was 14 laps to Russell’s 13 and Hamilton’s 12, while his second was 20 on the hard tyres to Russell and Hamilton’s 20.

“So that was interesting,” Drugovich continued, “and also really good to know at that time otherwise would be quite difficult because they had good straight-line speed.

“I think the only thing we’re missing.”

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Asked about the comment about the straight-line speed, he replied: “I think that’s the only thing that… if you run more downforce for sure you’re going to have less straight-line speed.

“It was a bit difficult to get past, obviously it was easy to stay close, but compared to them it was difficult to run the DRS and get past on the straights.”

“I think last year the car was very draggy, this year Aston managed to get a good car, very good downforce.

“And if you get that benefit of downforce, compromise a little bit straight-line speed, it’s always worth it.”

Aston Martin are second in the Constructors’ Championship after round one with 23 points, Lance Stroll having brought his AMR23 home in sixth place.