Fernando Alonso isn’t letting Aston Martin’s gradual tailing off of performance get to him, saying big steps are planned for next season.
While Aston Martin’s AMR23 started the season as one of the quickest cars on the grid, allowing Fernando Alonso to score six podiums in the first seven races and keep Aston Martin in the running for championship runners-up, the season has gotten away from the Silverstone-based team somewhat.
While there are still flashes of speed, the AMR23 appears to have been surpassed by Ferrari and Mercedes, while McLaren’s mid-season upgrades also appear to have given the Woking-based squad the edge for the final stages of the year.
Fernando Alonso not frustrated by Aston Martin tail-off
Last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix was the first race of the season in which Aston Martin failed to score a point – Lance Stroll failed to make the start after deciding together with the team to sit out the race following a hefty crash in Saturday qualifying.
Fernando Alonso pressed on in the race, but a pit entry error cost him a time penalty – together with a later mistake on track, and a fundamental lack of pace, Alonso was doomed to finish outside the points.
Asked whether he’s feeling frustrated that Aston Martin appears to have tailed off through the relentless upgrade cycle of the season, Alonso said: “Not at all.
“I’m extremely happy with the project also in difficult races like Singapore or Monza, all our debriefs, all our meetings with the factory they are extremely productive, it’s the weekends where we learn more in the season.
“The steps that we plan ahead for the future, for next year, when we come to those races are huge and I never saw that sort of scale in terms of ideas and putting things on the table.
“The motivation that the team has to become a top team and the resources and the determination is just outstanding, so I’m very happy.
“At the beginning of the year we had a fast car, but we already said at the beginning we were facing a huge challenge in-season because our main competitors are huge organisations and very top teams, so it was more or less expected Ferrari, Mercedes they will match our pace and potentially go ahead.
“Mercedes took not too long to be in that position, Ferrari took a little bit longer, and McLaren as well now they are very strong. We have to accept that we need to raise our level off-track as well and the rate of development has to be a little bit faster next year, but this is a very new team, and this is a new position for us and even the new factory is just aiming to match this kind of development that others can do during [the] season.
“So it’s not that we just accept this and we are okay with the situation; we just know that it’s a learning season on many fronts.”
The Spaniard also confirmed that the suspected suspension damage that has been talked about after Singapore was genuine, but wouldn’t reveal just how costly it was in terms of laptime.
“It wasn’t helping,” he said when asked about the damage, as quoted by Motorsportweek.
“We know how much it affected but we will not share. But it was significant, so I’m a little less worried about the performance in Singapore after knowing the damage that we had.
“The pace was not the real one on the race and we felt that maybe we could have followed the train of the leaders and had fewer problems with the Alpine and [Sergio] Perez and everything that changed after. When you are not too fast you get into a lot of problems.”
Fernando Alonso weighs up Aston Martin’s prospects for Japan
Having come through a lean spell between the European finale in Monza, and the first of the flyaways in Singapore, Alonso was reluctant to try hazarding a guess at how Aston Martin might fare at Suzila.
Given that the team has had some unpredictable form, even at tracks where they expected to be stronger, Alonso said he expects this race to be more difficult than Singapore.
“On paper, it should be a little bit more difficult than Singapore,” he said.
“Or let’s say, in Singapore, we had high hopes due to the nature of the track, here is a little more difficult to know, but let’s see. I think every circuit has been a little bit of a surprise for different reasons and for different people.
“High-speed, we were not the best for most of the season, so we were a little bit concerned coming to Suzuka, but then in Zandvoort, which [is] quite high-speed, we were fast and fighting for a podium there, so I hope it’s one of those, a positive surprise.
“A good weekend and a clean weekend for the team is what I hope and what we are looking for; Monza was only ninth, Singapore was no points, so after two bad races we need a good one, and also for Lance we will try to do the best we can for him to have a clean weekend as well.”