Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Imola, 2021

Horner rubbishes Aston Martin’s “naive” call for aerodynamic rules change

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Aston Martin CEO Otmar Szafnauer has called for urgent changes to Formula 1’s aerodynamic rules, which he believes have put his team at a disadvantage this year.

He even suggested the team could take legal action against the FIA over the alterations to rear floor dimensions which were introduced for the 2021 F1 season. But his complaints were dismissed as “naive” by Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner.

Szafnauer has complained bitterly about the consequences of the rules, describing them previously as a “deficit that was imposed on us by the FIA through their regulation change”. He believes the changes to the rear of the cars have slowed teams like Aston Martin and Mercedes more than their rivals who generally run higher rake angles on their cars.

Szafnauer said today he wants discussions around further changes to the cars to come into force this year. “I think the right thing to do is have the discussion with the FIA and find out exactly what happened and why and then see if there’s something that can be done to make it more equitable,” he told Sky.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Analysis: How some teams voted in vain against rule change which cost low-rake cars “1s per lap”
“We as a team have to work hard to try to claw back everything we can but at the same time we should be having the discussions with the FIA to see if there’s anything that can be done to make it a bit more equitable,” he added.

Asked whether the team would be prepared to take legal action if the rules are not changed, Szafnauer said: “I think we get to that point after the discussion. It’s hard to predict.”

Horner said he was “slightly surprised” by Szafnauer’s complaint, given the limited data teams have about their cars’ performance so far this year.

“First of all, we’ve had a sample of one [circuit]. Mercedes won that race with what you would classify a low-rake car. They’ve had absolutely equal, maybe better tyre degradation than we had in Bahrain. They’ve looked mighty impressive here and we’ve only run at one [other] circuit so far.”

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He claimed the changes were agreed last year with the unanimous support of the teams.

“There is a process for regulations be introduced and they were voted through unanimously through the different regulations that Aston Martin or Racing Point would have had to vote for before being passed through the Formula 1 Commission and the World [Motor Sport] Council.

“They were all voted through unanimously. When there was a front wing change a few years ago it really hurt us. We voted against it but we just had to accept it.

“So it seems a little naive to think suddenly the rules are going to get changed after the sample of a single race after the process has been fully followed. I’m struggling to get my head around that.”

Szafnauer previously claimed “three teams voted against” the new rules last year. As they were introduced on safety grounds, this was merely an indicative vote, and the approval of teams was not required.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “Horner rubbishes Aston Martin’s “naive” call for aerodynamic rules change”

  1. I rarely agree with Horner on such things, but have to agree that it is hard to see what AM think they can achieve. Will their rivals, FOM and FIA allow them to fix their issue and jump then halfway through the year to appease them, oh, and in the process allow Mercedes to jump some half a second or so towards/past Red Bull? All through an unprecedented rule change (bc. not mandated by safety, like say in 1994, or the tyres in 2013) midway of the season.

    Even if the rules can be shown to not have been reached completely honestly and unbiased as an even attempt at reducing downforce to safeguard the tyres, proving it was some kind of elaborate conspiracy to harm the low rake cars (at that point mostly Mercedes, and due to them copying the concept, RP?) while giving a high rake car a hit, but less of a hit than Merc, that seems very unlikely to yield a good outcome. And quite likely to burn bridged for any future working together with others in the paddock.

    1. someone or something
      16th April 2021, 15:58

      @bosyber

      I rarely agree with Horner on such things, but have to agree […]

      Same here, as Horner’s contributions are seldom of value. But he’s absolutely right in this case. I find it rather indicative of how far that team has strayed from the path when Horner becomes the voice of reason (in comparison).

      1. Agreed – anyone who’s seen DTS S3 will probably agree that this is the arrogant, bully-boy voice of Lawrence Stroll coming out of Otmar’s mouth.

    2. So you don’t think Merc and AM should be able tod evelop their way out of a performance loss? Teams are not allowed to develop their cars but they have intorudced a rule that has hampered two teams.

      1. Before the season there was no chat about the rule change hurting low rake cars more, it wasn’t some designed ploy to hurt Mercedes and racing point. Rule changes happen all the time and some teams take better advantage of them. To whinge about it like this is childish.

  2. This is exactly the reason why i don’t see Aston Martin challenging for wins next year, and why i think McLaren could have a realistic shot at the titles with the regulation changes.

    Even last year as Racing Point, with a car that was a clear 3rd in the pecking order by the end of the season they managed to lose out to McLaren (yes i know about the 15 point deduction, i also know they ran with, purely on technical terms, illegal rear brake ducts, and a superior engine to McLaren, which gave them a significant chunk of performance in every race). Aston Martin still seems to have that ‘small team’ mentality, and while under their Force India guise that was a charming underdog trait, it shines a very negative light on a team that wants to win.

  3. The petulance from Otmar really is laughable. Why should the FIA reverse the rules just because his team suffered? Perhaps they should have copied the Red Bull from photos instead, as they seem quite good at it. I could be mistaken, but I don’t recall any chatter last year about how the 2021 regulations would hamper low rake cars. It only really seems to have become an issue after both teams found out they’ve lost out more in testing and started moaning about how it was all done just to stop them. Even still, Mercedes is still up there at the front fighting with a low-rake car. Perhaps Aston Martin need to take a long, hard look at themselves and accept they haven’t had as good a job.

    1. @mashiat Agreed and well said. OS’s continued whining in this is very surprising. He hasn’t got a leg to stand on, and is only embarrassing himself and the team. Really disappointing to hear this from him.

  4. The FiA set the rules and the teams design cars within those rules. We should remember they reduced downforce at the floor because of concerns with tyre loads and failures. James Allison even stated at the start of the season it wasn’t clear whether high or low rake cars would be affected the most.

    …and now legal action? I mean Szafnauer is making himself look like a fool. No one made you copy the Mercedes. This must be absolute gold for Horner on the smug stakes.

  5. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    16th April 2021, 15:53

    So Aston Martin messes up and it’s the fault of the FIA now? After buying the team for his poor-driving son and then copying the Mercedes (and claiming they didn’t do anything wrong), this is the next chapter in ‘Why you can change the name of a team but it still stays a turd’.

    They got the budget cap, they got their billionaire money to help them and they cheated in the previous season. If you’re then still not capable of standing on your own, you really should look at yourself as the problem. Not blame others.

  6. This is unfair for everyone. I can’t side with Szafnauer here. Unless he is absolutely being a master troll.

    1. We should have a chance to edit comments… Plus, after only one race? We don’t even know if high rake cars or low rake cars were hurt the most. Bahrain is not representative of the entire season due to it being a rear limited and a power sensitive track.

  7. Is it just me or does anybody else agree that Szafnauer is more and more turning into the most annoying Team Boss of them all?
    He’s always been whiny but since last year he’s really surpassing himself.
    If it’s really the case and the new regs don’t favour low rake cars I still find it hard to feel sorry for him that the concept they carbon copied is not giving them the advantage they used to have last year.
    Maybe having kept Perez instead of Stroll would have helped either…

    1. Is it just me or does anybody else agree that Szafnauer is more and more turning into the most annoying Team Boss of them all

      It’s ironic because he claims he’s not the sort of person to talk a lot and would rather do his talking on the track… For some reason since papa Stroll took over he has done nothing but crow the media every chance he gets. For sure it has to be a strategy thing to get more attention towards their team.

  8. Please, please lodge legal action. I can’t wait to bathe in the tears of Mr Stroll.

  9. Horner knows a thing or two about rubbish and whining. How else did he get a new gen Honda in the back of his cars while all other manufacturers got a freeze sign stamped on their forehead? Why would Szafnauer not try one of these ” I whine I beg I threaten” strategy? Worked for the bull, right?
    I wish I could see the question that prompted Horner’s comment, to be fair, but sometimes even if asked, he should try to keep the rubbish in is mouth. He who leaves in a glass house does not throw stones.

    1. Except, of course, development on PU’s wasn’t frozen. Ferrari have a new one as well.

      1. So have Mercedes & Renault. What Honda did was bring their planned 2022 developments forward to this year’s engine because they’re leaving at season’s end.

      2. You carbonised him 😂😂

  10. Really embarrassing for the team. It was brilliant seeing Toto questioned about it. He obviously wanted to back the Merc B team but also had to keep up the pretense that Mercedes aren’t that far ahead that they could have lost a second and are still faster than everyone else.

    I’ve never seen him look an uncomfortable in an interview!

  11. Interesting how Mercedes aren’t whinging about the regulation change. They’ve acknowledged it in interviews, sure, but they’re keeping their heads down and focussing on overcoming the relative deficit thats been placed on them.

    Seems Racing Point can copy their car, but not their ethos.

    1. They aren’t whinging now, but Hamilton certainly was in Bahrain.

  12. After reading this i think we can consider their season is already lost.
    When the team principal gets to the point of threating legal action for a rules change, is because they’re completely lost about how make the car faster.

  13. I’m surprised and somewhat disappointed with Horner’s diplomatic choice of words. He should have said that Szafnauer is a sore loser who’s gone delusional.

    1. @krommenaas If only. Can you imagine if team personnel and drivers had the freedom to speak like that in interviews? We’d have as many fans tuning in to watch the interviews as they would the race! Drive to Survive series would be 30+ part odysseys with actual drama, and not manufactured.

  14. With the major design challenge of the 2022 car, Otmar already knows he can’t put enough resource into this season’s car to tackle the challenge. He knows he’s only going to stay where he is or drop further backwards in the midfield pecking order (got to assume at least McLaren and Ferrari will keep developing a little longer into the season, AlphaTauri is already ahead, and Alfa are also in the mix) for the rest of this season and is laying out his excuses early. Papa Stroll has spent big on the team and the marketing, and he’s got a dog on his hands this year that he can’t fix.

  15. The most delicious part of all of this is that FI/RP/AM actually had a high rake car until they abandoned that approach to copy Merc.

  16. Like many wealthy people, Lawrence Stroll is used to getting what he wants by banding around threats of legal action. The billionaire’s version of asking to speak to the manager. He wouldn’t actually do it as he knows the case would be thrown out of any court he chooses.

    1. This, exactly ! It brings memories of a certain US president…

      (Feel free to moderate / bin my comment if that is considered already too political)

      Reply moderated
  17. At least Günther Steiner is funny! Although at this season he have shone less than usual, likely because of similar reasons like Szafnauer. You know there is Günther Steiner rap (Sim Dane at youtube, if one not met with it yet, probably a bit debatable, but that guy is a genius of his own kind), but can you imagine having something similar with Szafnauer? Huh, impossible for me, that would be another subgenre of rap, much less fun, much more bling-bling.

  18. This is what happens when you copy someone else’s work and don’t understand how they got there. Mercedes are hard at work in the sim over the last few weeks to come up with solutions for the design of their car. Aston Martin don’t understand their car because they didn’t develop it as a result of their own aerodynamic concepts. Going in the sim won’t help them understand a car that wasn’t their concept so they have to resort to whining, tantrums and threats. They are making a name for themselves as the most loathsome team on the grid. And that’s saying something.

    1. I can only like the fall of aston martin considering vettel recently joined, who thought to get back at ferrari by having a faster car he didn’t deserve: surprise!

  19. Grannie Annie
    17th April 2021, 4:38

    And this my friends is exactly why we need a drive to survive team bosses edition 😜

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