Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Yas Marina, 2022 post-season test

Will Alonso’s arrival kick Aston Martin into a higher gear in 2023?

F1 2023 team preview

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Is it genuinely possible to break free from the purgatory of the midfield and join the top three teams at the front of the Formula 1 field?

Over the last ten seasons, midfield teams have invested billions into trying to bridge the chasm separating them and Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari at the apex of Formula 1. To date, none have succeeded. But Aston Martin is different.

Ever since Racing Point’s Silverstone base was taken over by a Lawrence Stroll-led consortium and rebranded in British Racing Green, the team have hardly produced outstanding results on track. Yet that will not have troubled Aston Martin’s management, who have playing the long game from the moment they first closed the purchase of the team back in 2018.

The Silverstone squad had always punched above its weight, so the natural strategy was for the team to bulk up in order to join the real heavyweights. But serious levelling-up requires serious investment and Aston Martin’s benefactors have injected over £200m into an all-new, state-of-the-art factory to transform them from perennial midfield runners to genuine contenders.

Sitting alongside its previous facility on the same plot, the 40-acre, three-building factory will feature a new wind tunnel, swanky new staff offices and a new design, research and development hub tailor-made for F1’s new budget cap age. While not all of it will be completed in 2023, the main building is due to open up for the first time later this year – the first big step on what Aston Martin hope will be a journey to becoming title contenders.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Yas Marina, 2022 post-season test
Alonso has switched to Aston Martin in his 20th season
But having the facilities and resources to win is nothing without the driving talent to exploit it. And who better to lead Aston Martin into their bright future than a 41-year-old driver who has not won a grand prix in almost a decade?

Fernando Alonso’s switch from Alpine to Aston Martin was a shocking move eclipsed only in drama by Oscar Piastri refusing his subsequent call-up by Alpine in order to sign for McLaren. Alonso joins his sixth factory of his F1 career even hungrier for that elusive third world championship than ever before. F1’s most experienced ever driver is under no illusion that he may have to wait even longer to get a chance.

“I’m not thinking about timeframes and how long it will take the team to win races,” Alonso said. “I will take it race by race, season by season. What’s important is that we keep making progress.

“This is a very special opportunity for me with this team at this moment in my career. I’ve been preparing physically and mentally for this challenge, and I see this project as a winning one. It’s a matter of time until Aston Martin is winning races and championships. Making that time as short as possible, this is my biggest challenge – but I’m ready for it.”

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Have some sympathy for Lance Stroll, who goes from having a multiple world champion and one of the most successful drivers of all time as a team mate to having another multiple world champion and one of the most successful drivers of all time as his new team mate. Stroll acquitted himself respectably during his two years alongside Sebastian Vettel, but Alonso is an infamously tough team mate and the pair’s dynamic would hardly have been helped by their collision in Austin a few months ago.

The team’s new factory should open later this year
Ever since his father transformed the team into Aston Martin, Stroll has ironically scored fewer points with each season that has passed, falling lower down the drivers’ championship. But at least heading into 2023, the team will be buoyed by the arrival of Dan Fallows as technical director. The former Red Bull head of aerodynamics joined the team early last season after a lengthy delay and Aston Martin will hope to feel his impact for their newest car.

They have momentum, too. After a poor start to the year in 2022, Aston Martin enjoyed one of the strongest development rates of any teams over the course of the year, helped largely by a major upgrade package at the Spanish Grand Prix. In the end, only Valtteri Bottas’ fifth place at Imola denied Aston Martin sixth place in the constructors’ championship.

Starting 2023 where they left off at the end of last season has to be the minimum aim for Aston Martin and team principal Mike Krack. Midway through his first season as a Formula 1 team principal last year, Krack admitted to RaceFans that he was still getting to grips with his new role, he now has a full year’s worth of experience under his belt to help guide the team onwards as it continues to expand.

No matter the lofty ambitions Aston Martin may have for their future, however, they know they will not suddenly leap to the front overnight – no matter how much natural speed Alonso may bring to the team. But that does not mean they should not aim to take a step forward in 2023. Fighting for a top five finish would certainly be a welcome sign of progress and show that Alonso made a wise choice in Aston Martin as his likely last chance of becoming world champion once again.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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15 comments on “Will Alonso’s arrival kick Aston Martin into a higher gear in 2023?”

  1. …who better to lead Aston Martin into their bright future than a 41-year-old driver who has not won a grand prix in almost a decade?

    Having a 35-year old quadruple world champion who last won in 2019 didn’t work for them. This looks like a terrible marriage of convenience for both parties.

    1. Coventry Climax
      13th February 2023, 10:00

      Ha, I was about to say more or less the same, reading that sentence that’s taken out of the recycle bin every year, and/or time that Lance gets a ‘new’ teammate.
      Answer to the title question: Won’t happen and certainly not any time soon.
      Ofcourse it’s essential for Alonso to keep up the pretense, but in the end, he just went for the money and nothing else.
      Do I blame him for the choice? No I don’t.
      Do I blame him for sweet talking around it? Yes I do. And Alonso is not new to it.

      Answer to the first sentence question; is it possible? Ofcourse they can be a top three contender, if Mercedes withdraws, Newey tragically dies and Ferrari -which is likely- just keeps doing what they’ve always been doing, namely undermining themselves. Actually, under those circumstances, any team can come out on top.

      1. I don’t think he went there for the money, though it probably was a bump up from Alpine. He went there because Alpine were only offering one year contracts, Ocon was given three years, and Alonso didn’t want to be a seat warmer for a young driver like Piastri (he wasn’t to know Alpine had already lost him). Additionally, Alpine/Renault have shown no ambition over the last several years to make any serious attempt to move up from the midfield. Aston Martin however have invested in this new facility and are clearly throwing their resources at the project to try and move up the order.

        Of course it’s not likely that it will pay off within Alonso’s realistically limited time on the grid, but with the top 3 teams locked up and not offering him a contract any time soon, this was clearly the best gamble available to try and make something of his last few years of competitive F1 racing.

    2. Would disagree that Vettel’s time “didn’t work”, Vettel scored two 2nd places (a justified but petty DSQ notwithstanding) which gave some measure of credibility to the organisation. Stroll Sr. in his long interview with F1 Beyond the Grid also stressed the importance of bringing in someone like Vettel to share his experience with title winning teams. That goes all the way from trackside operations and how to handle strategies to how the factory works together with the race team.

      Had Aston Martin not made such a mess of the start of the season, they might well have been able to gather much more points as their form towards the latter parts of the season had become pretty solid, and they were able to make the most of a few good opportunities to score points. It’s not all on Vettel, of course, as Racing Point and Force India before were also quite decent, but compared to a few other teams Aston Martin runs a pretty smooth operation.

  2. Let’s see how AM goes with Alonso and with their “championship material” son of the owner driver then.

    I am not too thrilled for the prospects of this team, but fully open to being suprised.

  3. I personally think Alonso has what it takes to grab a few more wins if he gets a decent car under him.
    That would surely motivate the rest of the team?

    I don’t know.
    I think this entire Rich kid and Daddies cash situation will have a negative impact on some members of the team.
    Just paying people lots of money doesn’t make them like you or care about your business.

    I will always be grateful that Daddy Stroll bought the team and has invested so heavily in F1 but I don’t think I will ever be a fan of either him or his spoilt little boy.

    1. I will always be grateful that Daddy Stroll bought the team and has invested so heavily in F1 but I don’t think I will ever be a fan of either him or his spoilt little boy.

      My thoughts exactly.. I respect him for coughing up the cash. But have zero respect for his ability to build or run a successful team.
      I have less than zero respect for his son, who’s been the most underserving driver that has still remained on the grid over the past decade.

  4. Will Alonso’s arrival kick Aston Martin into a higher gear? Yes. But more likely happen after he’s not there.

  5. I can see AM making a step forward this season, only because of their development curve towards the 2nd half of last season. I think starting the season at P5 in the WCC is almost expected.

    Alonso is definitely a step up from Vettel… so if they have a decent car, I could see them finishing in P5 (maybe even P4) in the WCC.

  6. I think that the recruitment of an aero person from RBR is probably going to make more of a difference than Alonso.

    I still expect him to have a few meltdowns as is his way. Whether that ends up negatively impacting the team overall……

  7. All this will cause is world class Alonso sulking and excuse making.

  8. Yes, I’m positive.

  9. Personally, I think that the driver lineup in the last two years held Aston Martin back. That car wasn’t a winner but Stroll’s just not good enough and Seb had been in a downward spiral since mid-2018. So an Alonso can and definetly will make a difference IMO..

    It’s still going to be a midfield team at best. But at least they’ll hit their targets much more frequently than before.

  10. In 2023 I doubt they will finish top 4. 5th/6th or 7th I expect. After all everyone is trying to improve. I can see them improving a little over the next few years but I doubt they are going to become a regular challenger for wins unless there is very unexpected dip in performance at RBR, Merc or Ferrari.

  11. Well, with alonso’s history, the team should get worse, not better! Not saying it’s alonso making it worse, but when he comes usually a team becomes worse.

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