Aston Martin hoping DRS fix works in Miami after Stroll manages fault in race

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso‘s run of podiums came to an end at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but after DRS problems earlier in the weekend he had reason to smile on Sunday afternoon.

“It worked today. A lot of speed, I’ve never been that fast down a straight for the whole weekend!”

The Aston Martin drivers had been unable to consistently use DRS on Friday, when qualifying for the grand prix was held. Alonso and team mate Lance Stroll lined up sixth and ninth respectively on Sunday’s grid – the worst qualifying performance so far this year for both drivers at the team which has been the surprise package of the season to date.

In qualifying for the sprint race they were only eighth and ninth fastest as they suffered from the same problem. But a fix was found and implemented with the permission of the FIA. Alonso and Stroll finished sixth and eighth in the sprint race, then fourth and seventh in the grand prix.

Stroll was asked about the lap time impact of having faulty DRS around Baku, a track featuring several long straights. “I don’t think we would have been on pole… It’s always hard to say. For sure we would have been a couple positions ahead on the grid.”

To have qualified two places higher he would have needed to have gone a third of a second faster, with an improvement of just under a quarter of a second required for Alonso to have qualified in the top four.

Team principal Mike Krack played down the impact of the fault, pointing out their DRS was only failing to open in one of the two zones. “It was more a distraction than a genuine disadvantage,” he explained.

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“The DRS was working on the back straight. So it was obviously a small penalty, but in both sprint and in the race, it worked.

“When you do the analysis, in qualifying we lost mainly in sector two, which is not the DRS zone. So obviously it is a distraction, and a lot of the team is then focusing around that. That is also the reason why you don’t want to have these issues in the FP1 session.

“But overall, I think we managed to solve it. We would have liked to solve it earlier on, or not have it in the first place, but at the end of the day it’s not such a drama.”

All teams’ cars were put under parc ferme conditions – which limits what changes can be made – a day earlier than usual last weekend under F1’s sprint event format. However Aston Martin was nonetheless able to put a solution in place.

“We did everything with the FIA,” said Krack. “The FIA was very helpful on this. You will have seen that we have changed one flap on Fernando’s car. It was after a routine check, basically because if you pull all the time on the flap, and it is not moving, then you’re putting stress on it. So for safety, we wanted to change it.”

Stroll did not have a flap change on his car, and his engineer Ben Michell repeatedly told him over the radio during the grand prix to activate DRS later down the main straight than the activation line. If the flap had failed to open upon command, then a later ‘activation’ point would have meant less time spent under strain for the mechanism before the the rear wing closed when Stroll reached the end of the straight.

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Initially Michell said Stroll could use DRS freely if he was actively attempting to overtake someone on that lap. However the team’s guidance became more restrictive later in the race as they continued to monitor the problem on his car:

Lap: 19/51
MichellWe think late press at the DRS line is preferred at the moment. You have early press if you want to attack.
Lap: 26/51
MichellLate press only at the DRS line. Late press only at the DRS line. Tyre feedback when you can.
Lap: 28/51
MichellSo we need late press only at the DRS line, Lance. We can’t be pressing early and cancelling. It doesn’t help us.
MichellLate press at the DRS line only.
Lap: 45/51
MichellLate press only, late press only, we need to get to zero.

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Krack said the fix put in place by the team in Baku for the 17-lap sprint race and grand prix was not fully proven yet. “It’s the difference between working for one lap, or working for 17 plus 51. So that is also why we were a bit careful in saying we have fixed it.

“I think today we can say we have fixed it. But if you would have asked me before the sprint, I was not so confident.”

He hopes to confirm ahead of Sunday’s race at the Miami International Autodrome that their DRS is now working as intended.

“I’m not an aerodynamicist, so I need to be careful to jump to a conclusion before we have done the full analysis”, said Krack. Asked whether it will be fixed in Miami he said: “I think so.”

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Ida Wood
    Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...
    Claire Cottingham
    Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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    3 comments on “Aston Martin hoping DRS fix works in Miami after Stroll manages fault in race”

    1. With the activation zone already 100 meters shorter than before, Stroll was unlucky to have that even shorter for me solely.

    2. Goes to highlight the negatives of having virtually no practice and putting cars into parc-ferme on Fridays over the sprint weekend. Gives teams no time to test upgrades.

      These aren’t junior formula spec cars that never change through a season. They are bespoke, ever evolving complex prototypes and without testing now everything is been done at race weekends so further reducing that running is going to result in these problems.

      And while in this instance it was just a performance loss and annoyance there is the potential for it to become a safety issue should a new part fail and cause a big accident.

      I also question the lack of practice on a sprint weekend in terms of tyres as lets not forget that Pirelli usually use the practice running to figure out the recommendations for pressures, cambers and stint life. Having a race come down to tyre failres due to the recommended things been wrong due to a lack of data from the lack of running isn’t good for anyone and would make both the SPORT and the Liberty show look like a joke.

      But then given how nascar lives and breathes on accidents and how the American audience Liberty are going after seem to thrive on ‘the big one’ maybe this is what Liberty want to see happen.

      1. How does it make you feel to know that the teams themselves back the reduction in testing and practice? They know how much more development they do now than they were doing 30+ years ago (despite unlimited real-world testing for the wealthy teams), thanks to the power of modern computing and increases in data gathering efficiency.

        I don’t recall any pressure or construction-related tyre failures at any of the sprint events – but there have been a few during non-sprint weekends when there were 3 or even 4 hours of practice… (But even then, usually debris or damage is heavily involved, or sometimes teams simply using the tyres in a way not supported by the manufacturer).
        And there’s no need to worry about how long the tyres last. If they degrade quicker than ‘expected’ teams will have to consider pitting another time and increasing the strategic depth. That’s a plus for most viewers. Make the most of it, because when they don’t, we get ‘races’ like Baku 2023.

    Comments are closed.