Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Monaco, 2023

Aston Martin explain final sector weakness which cost Alonso pole to Verstappen

2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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Aston Martin explained why they have been losing time to their rivals in the final sector of the lap in Monaco, after Fernando Alonso narrowly missed pole position yesterday.

Alonso was 0.204 seconds quicker than Max Verstappen over the first two sectors in qualifying yesterday. But the Red Bull driver was 0.288s quicker than him through the final sector, which includes seven corners, and denied Alonso what would have been his first pole position since 2012.

Aston Martin’s performance director Tom McCullough said the team have been losing tyre performance in the final sector of the lap. “Around here it’s quite hard to get the tyres working for the first timed lap,” he told media including RaceFans.

“As you saw a lot of people do different run plans throughout qualifying. We were able to get the tyres on our car working well often during the weekend, fastest in sector one and sector two. Obviously you take more out of the tyres by doing that.

“You get to sector three, it’s a bit harder. So we were trying to play that balance here.”

The team has been unable to get out of the slow corners at the end of the lap as well as some of their rivals, McCullough added.

“Also some of the traction and grip out of the last two corners wasn’t particularly strong and consistent for us. That’s something we tried to work on during the weekend. But ultimately if you look at the GPS overlay to Max at the end it’s a little bit in all the last three or four corners. So it’s not stand-out.”

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Aston Martin arrived in Monaco expecting the track would suit their car as it lacks the long acceleration zones where Red Bull’s superior efficiency gives them an advantage. McCullough said that has been borne out by the team’s showing so far this weekend.

“The efficiency on this track means it’s just all about your cornering performance,” he said. “It’s really hard until you come here as no one’s actually run max downforce before until you put the big rear wing on the car. And everyone’s got updates, so you don’t really know.

“But thankfully our car performed well, to expectation. We put all the high downforce rear wing on, the diffuser, the brake ducts, everything worked well. So then you’re happy, the car was strong. The margins are small.

“There’s a lot of people very, very close in times. So we did think it was a good chance, but I’m sure a lot of people did too.”

While Alonso will start from the front row, Lance Stroll only took 14th on the grid in his Aston Martin. McCullough said his qualifying session began to go awry when he touched the barrier at Sainte Devote.

“In free practice three he had a nice clean lap and was nice and strong. Quali one was really nice and strong. Quali two, into turn one on the first lap with a bit of a compromised out-lap, he had a snap on the exit of turn one and that sort of put him a bit on the back foot. He didn’t quite go in as hard as Sergio [Perez] did, but he nearly did, so then you sort of wind it back a bit.

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“He ended up at the end of that run missing the weigh bridge, having to get dragged back and then only having one lap.”

Stroll’s final lap was spoiled when he collected debris, said McCullough. “Going into the penultimate corner, turn 18, he was on for easily going through and he just went in a bit deep to that corner.

“When we actually analysed it, you see the Norris incident, out of turn 12 a huge part of Norris’s front wing broke the forward strakes of the floor, broke the chin. So from an aero side, that last sector he had a lot of damage on this car.”

Aston Martin have repaired Stroll’s car ahead of the race. “We’ve actually had to change the floor overnight,” said McCullough.

“So it’s one of those ones, very small margins, before you know it one or two tenths has knocked you out and then the result looks bad. But he was actually quite comfortable with the car up until then.”

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2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
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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2 comments on “Aston Martin explain final sector weakness which cost Alonso pole to Verstappen”

  1. La Rascasse ultimately proved decisive.

  2. Peter Windsor showed how different the line from Max is through Rascasse in comparison to Perez and Alonso.
    And how much time he gains through Rascasse and the corner and straight after it.
    Sheer skill from Max through S3. Which he had to do to compensate for his conservative S1 where his tyres weren’t up to optimal temperature, as he said in post-qualifying interviews.

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