Aston Martin reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg doubts whether the team can become much more competitive over the remainder of this season.
Hulkenberg thinks the damage was done by the tweaks to the aerodynamic regulations for this year which affected Mercedes and Aston Martin the most.
In 2020, Racing Point, as Aston Martin were then known, finished fourth in the Constructors’ World Championship and were only denied third place due to receiving a 15-point penalty. They also won the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain via Sergio Perez.
But this term, with Sebastian Vettel having replaced Perez alongside team owner’s son Lance Stroll, highlights have been scarce. Vettel’s P2 finish in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is comfortably the Silverstone-based team’s best result so far.
With development work on the 2021 cars having been scaled back considerably by all teams due to the sweeping regulation changes for next year, Hulkenberg thinks that being right in the thick of the midfield, as Aston Martin typically are, is as good as it will generally get.
“Aston Martin followed the same concept as Mercedes, with this low rake, so a different aerodynamic philosophy than most other teams,” the 33-year-old German told RTL, adding that the duo had “lost the most ground”.
“At the same time, they have to prepare for the huge rule change next year,” he continued, with The Hulk thinking Aston Martin’s performance will “not really” differ this season.
After a particularly difficult start, especially compared to some of the other drivers who had switched teams, Vettel finally clicked with improved performances in Monaco, where he finished fifth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, and that runner-up showing in Azerbaijan.
Saying he had been “surprised a little” by the four-time former World Champion’s early struggles, Hulkenberg said of Vettel that it had “really taken a while for him to understand the car, for him to really get in” and describing Baku as a “mega highlight”.
Since then, says Hulkenberg, the car’s performance has been “rather mediocre” with the highest finish achieved by either Vettel or Stroll in the three subsequent grands prix having been the Canadian’s P8 at the Styrian race.