Huge Aston Martin gains found in Japan as DRS telemetry data exposes McLaren weakness

Uros Radovanovic
Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso at Suzuka.

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso.

As expected, Max Verstappen has once again asserted his dominance, clinching pole position for Red Bull. However, behind this predictable narrative lies a tale of intense battles, surprising twists, and the relentless pursuit of perfection on the track.

Let’s take a look at what the telemetry data says, whether the upgrades prepared for Japan were good, and which team has best aerodynamically prepared for Suzuka. What can we expect from the race and who are the main contenders to challenge Max?

Car improvements compared to F1 2023

Additional reporting by Pablo Hidalgo

In the article where we analysed the free practices, we talked about how the change in the timing of the Japanese race had a significant impact on performance. Last year we had Suzuka in September, whereas now we are racing here in early April, which is a big difference, primarily in track temperature.

However, despite this change, what has mostly influenced the drastically better qualifying times compared to 2023 is the aerodynamic improvements of the cars. Aston Martin is the team that has definitely progressed the most – the difference between the 2023 and 2024 qualifying rounds in Q3 is a staggering 1.77 seconds, which is impressive.

Let’s recall that Aston Martin significantly improved the aerodynamics of the sidepods and the rear part of the car during the off-season. This gave them an additional boost in maximum speeds, as well as in downforce. Last year’s AMR23 was very weak on a track like Suzuka, while this year things are quite different, thanks to the excellent work of the aerodynamic team.

Teams’ Best Sectors in Qualifying

Team sector rimes in Japan quali

In the picture above, we can see the times each team had in certain sectors. As expected, Red Bull took the first place in each, but some interesting battles were happening below them.

For example, McLaren performed very well in the first sector, with minimal deficit behind Red Bull. Their DRS plane was much more loaded compared to other teams, bringing high speeds in the DRS zone and enough grip through the “S” curves.

Ferrari’s performance was below expectations in qualifying. We can see that they were good enough in the first two sectors, but much worse in the third one.

Ferrari’s car is excellent in fast corners and on straights, but slow corners (like T16 and T17 at Suzuka) cost them too much time. If we compare their rear wing, it’s clear that it’s less loaded compared to McLaren, which also shone in S3.

It’s interesting to see how Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s rear wings are almost identical, but due to more effective aerodynamics and overall performance of the Austrian team, the difference between them is more than obvious.

Top speeds and DRS effectiveness in Suzuka

From the analysis of teams’ aero packages, we can somewhat predict the maximum speeds during qualifying. It’s expected that teams like Red Bull and Ferrari will be good at maximum speeds, while McLaren and Aston Martin not so much.

From the picture above, we see the maximum speeds recorded during each driver’s best lap. At the top are the Haas drivers, who are indeed very good on straights but unfortunately, their story ends there.

Red Bull is also near the top with 324 km/h while McLaren is at the bottom of the table with 319 km/h.

McLaren, despite lower maximum speeds, had a very good qualifying, and we believe they can fight with Perez for second place. But what we can also expect is that Norris will have trouble catching up with Perez in the DRS zone, which is currently the easiest place for overtaking in Suzuka.

In the picture below, we can see the speed difference between Max and Norris before entering turn 1.

Max Verstappen Lando Norris Turn 1 Japan speed difference
Max Verstappen Lando Norris Turn 1 Japan speed difference

When we talk about the effectiveness of the DRS system, currently only Ferrari can match Red Bull in that area. If we recall the 2023 season, we had several truly incredible overtakes by Max Verstappen in the DRS zone where a huge difference in maximum speeds could clearly be seen. Now the difference is not that big, but it can still be seen on the track.

Max Verstappen Carlos Sainz speed difference Turn 1 Japan 2024
Max Verstappen Carlos Sainz speed difference Turn 1 Japan 2024

The picture shows the speed difference between Sainz and Verstappen before entering turn 1. If you compare this picture with the previous one, the difference is clearly visible.

What’s certain is that we’ll have an intriguing race in Suzuka, at least for positions P2 and P3, while potential rain showers could further complicate the battle…

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