Fernando Alonso denied the suggestion that an FIA technical directive relating to the Aston Martin front wing has triggered a slump in performance, a dip which Lance Stroll says the team have “ideas” on for a fix.
Aston Martin began F1 2023 as the second-fastest team behind Red Bull, Alonso claiming five podium finishes in the opening six rounds, a remarkable surge forward for a team that finished P7 in the Constructors’ standings last season.
Additional reporting by Sam Cooper and Thomas Maher
But there are signs now that Aston Martin are starting to lose out in the F1 2023 development war, with McLaren having surged to the head of the ‘best of the rest’ pack behind Red Bull, with Mercedes seemingly their closest challenger.
Fernando Alonso denies front wing TD claim
Ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, Sky F1’s Craig Slater put a rumour to Alonso that the FIA were not happy with how Aston Martin were running the front wing on their AMR23, with the directive demanding alterations therefore explaining the apparent pace decline.
Alonso though denied this, putting forward instead the reasons he believes exist for this assumption.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Alonso when asked if there was any substance to that rumour. “I think it has been a combination of a few things.
“We were four tenths from pole position in Hungary, which is normally the average of pole position, but now there are seven cars in front of us. I think everyone did a step forward. So the grid is very, very tight.
“They could, some teams, over-develop the car compared to us.
“So I think we need to be pragmatic. We need to see that we found ourselves maybe in a position that we were not expecting, so we need to grow up as a team in many different areas.
“But we’re taking all the necessary steps forward to come back to a strong performance. The team is very focused, the team is very determined to go back to the podium and I think we will succeed.”
To that point of how far Aston Martin have come, the team currently P3 in the standings ahead of Ferrari, Alonso rates the first half of their F1 2023 campaign a perfect “10”, with Formula 1 heading into its summer break after the Belgian GP.
“Big success,” Alonso continued as he reflected on part one of F1 2023 for Aston Martin. “I think back to Spa last year, I think the team was ninth in the Constructors’ Championship only in front of Williams, finishing seventh, and this year we are in front of Ferrari.
“So this is an incredible step that Aston Martin has gone through the last few months. I think we cannot ask anything more.”
Alonso’s team-mate Lance Stroll did though focus more on the performance dip, admitting Aston Martin are no longer where they want to be.
“Yeah, not where we want to be,” he told media including PlanetF1.com regarding the AMR23’s current level.
“We started the season very strong, second, third-fastest car some races depending on the track, but the last few weekends have been more challenging for us. So we definitely have a few things to work on to get back to where we want to be.”
Asked where the pace has gone, Stroll spoke of a combination of factors, though says Aston Martin have “ideas” to get back on the front foot, meaning he looks forward to the second half of the campaign.
“I think it’s just a lot of little details,” he suggested. “Just the usual stuff, working around some of the limitations of the car, balance through the corner and finding some more downforce and all that kind of stuff.
“But I think we have some ideas. So yeah, I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.”
That comes after the Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps though, and with the race weekend already set to be highly challenging with just the one practice session, since the sprint format is in use, the threat of rain could escalate the challenge even further.
Stroll though acknowledges that every driver will need to rise to said challenge, so looks forward to getting stuck into the on-track action.
“I think it’s going to be a challenging race for everyone,” he said.
“It’s a sprint weekend, by the looks of it the weather is going to be the biggest factor. One [practice] session and a wet track around here is always challenging.
“So I think it will be challenging but exciting at the same time. Great track to drive and conditions will be difficult, but it’s the same for everyone. So yeah, looking forward to the weekend.”
Aston Martin hold an advantage of 17 points over Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship, while the gap to Mercedes ahead stands at 39 points.