Otmar Szafnauer makes Force India 2014 comparison with Aston Martin improvements

Sam Cooper
Pat Fry in discussions at the Austrian Grand Prix. July 2022

2JGAR5P Spielberg, Austria. 9th July 2022. (L to R): Pat Fry (GBR) Alpine F1 Team Chief Technical Officer with Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal and Andy Stevenson (GBR) Aston Martin F1 Team Manager. Austrian Grand Prix, Saturday 9th July 2022. Spielberg, Austria. Credit: James Moy/Alamy Live News

Otmar Szafnauer has praised his former team Aston Martin and compared the progress they made in 2023 to that of Force India in 2014.

Having bought the former Spyker team in 2007, Force India struggled early on, failing to score points in their first 29 races.

But their fortunes began to change gradually and in 2014, the team were the surprise package at the opening race of the season when the pair of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Perez scored a combined points total of nine.

It marked the continuation of steady progress for the Silverstone-based team, resulting in back-to-back P4 finishes in 2016 and 2017, but their progress came to a swift stop when owner Vijay Mallya was accused of fraud and defaulting on loans.

Unable to keep the team afloat, Mallya was forced to sell and did so to Lawrence Stroll with the team rebranded to Racing Point and then later Aston Martin.

Now it is Aston Martin’s turn to surprise with their podium finish in Bahrain looking like not just a shock result but perhaps a sign of things to come.

Alpine team boss Szafnauer, who worked at the Silverstone factory from October 2009 until January 2022, had experience working in both teams and said he can see a lot similarities. He also noted the benefits Aston Martin receive from sharing Mercedes’ wind tunnel.

“They made the jump to be fair to them,” the Alpine boss told media including PlanetF1.com. “You know, it’s always been a good and efficient team.

“The Mercedes wind tunnel is a very good one and I don’t think you’re penalised by sharing. If you were penalised by sharing, people wouldn’t share. So whether you have your own or you’re sharing one, there’s no significant difference really.

“Congratulations to them. I think Force India in 2013 were exactly the same in about the same relative position. I think they qualified fifth in 2014, had really good race pace. So I congratulate them [Aston Martin] for making the big step up from last year to this year.

PlanetF1 recommends

Five reasons why Ferrari fans should still be optimistic after Bahrain
Bahrain 2023: When Lawrence and Lance Stroll finally won Formula 1’s acceptance
The Mercedes W14’s main strength that Aston Martin are currently missing

“But what we’ve got to look at is we’ve got to beat them too. We should look at how close were we relative to pole from last year? How close were we on race pace and where could we have finished had we not had our operational issues [in Bahrain]?”

Despite being involved in some of the structural changes that Aston Martin are enjoying today, Szafnaeur did not want to take credit for it, instead saying Alpine were more concerned about finding the true pace of their own car.

“Look, I’m here [at Alpine],” said Szafnauer. Congrats to them, we want to beat them and I’ve got to do everything I can for us to get better and closer.

“This race was not a normal race for us, we usually don’t make these operational mistakes. Unfortunately, Pierre [Gasly] started last. So he’s not really a good barometer of where we could have finished if we did have a normal race.

“The question for me is if we had a normal race, could we have beaten them? I don’t know that yet. But we’ve got to reflect on this and do better.”