Aston Martin shed light on how it reversed its recent poor performances last weekend and how its slump related to its 2024 development work.
This decline in form coincided with their introduction of a series of upgrades to the AMR23 which seemingly consigned its drivers to lower and lower positions with each event.
Tom McCullough, Aston Martin’s performance director, explained the approach the team had been taking with their recent upgrades.
“We really got into trying to do some big testing and understanding for next year, which we’ve done with all that data in the bank,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of putting together the best spec of car, the combination of everything we’ve been doing, and just trying to execute clean weekends because it is tough doing all the research and development, especially during sprint events.”
The team tried to avoid compromising its weekend by starting its cars in the pit lane in order to make set-up changes, as it did at the United States Grand Prix two weeks earlier.
“We don’t want to be starting from the pit lane, we don’t want to be doing stuff like that. So we knew the stuff we wanted to get done on the track, we’ve got it done. Not as easily as we maybe wanted it to happen but that’s what happens when you have a bad free practice at a sprint event – everything goes off-plan pretty damn quick.”
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The team “never run the same spec car” from one round to the next, he explained. “Certain circuits mean certain bits, and we’re always developing the car, we’re always trying to put together the bits that give us the best car for the requirements of that track: low, medium, high-speed, straight-line efficiency. So there’s always bits which don’t perform as well as you’re wanting relative to your development tools, CFD, wind tunnel.
“We’ve got a really good understanding of the car on-track. We do a lot of measurements, [we’ve put] a lot of effort into that area over the last 10 years. We can pretty quickly say ‘that’s a good bit, that’s the way you ought to be going’ for the limitations that the drivers have at a very rear-limited track or a through corner ‘this’, low to high-speed ‘that’. Put the right bits together and I think you’re seeing that this weekend.”
McCullough’s comments came after Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso had put their Aston Martins third and fourth on the grid respectively for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Later that day Alonso made it onto the podium for the first time since the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, while Stroll took his best race result in four months by finishing fifth.
“Nine weeks ago in Zandvoort we had a car that we were very happy with,” said McCullough. “It is a bit track-specific. And we’ve introduced some parts, we’ve done some testing. We did a bit too much R&D work in front of you all, and over two race weekends, which maybe in hindsight wasn’t the right thing to do.
“But we’re pretty happy that we’ve got a good understanding of the way to develop the car, which is key for next year. That was the most crucial data for us to get. We’ve got that, now it’s just about trying to have as strong a last three races as we can.”
Improvements were required not just with the car but how the team was tackling R&D work, McCullough added.
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“We’ve had to adapt our understanding, the wind tunnel and the CFD based on these regulations. Everyone’s had to do that.
“We’ve just had to do some pretty extreme things to help correlate those tools, and you’re seeing lots of aero rakes on the car. At the same time, it’s just about what is that flow field doing from the front of the car to the rear when you do this on the real car. That’s what we needed to get.
“We got that data, and it’s all part of the correlation, the development, feeding into next year’s car.”
The team switching their focus back to maximising their current car rather than working on development avenues for 2024 was what enabled Aston Martin’s drivers to be more competitive in Brazil.
“The drivers have been quite happy,” McCullough admitted. “We’ve given them a car which around this track at least they can drive and drive hard.”
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