The rumours surrounding Aston Martin during the winter break were among the strongest – and most positive – in F1. Speculation suggested the team made a 2-second improvement with the AMR23:
“We knew from December that their wind tunnel and simulator output numbers were very good,” said Carlos Sainz at the Bahrain GP.
However, there is a big difference between strong simulator numbers and actual performance on track. The most obvious example of this was Mercedes and the W13 last year, with the German team failing to show the performance estimated in the factory.
Ferrari has also experienced a similar issue this season, with the SF-23 far slower than indicated in winter simulations. Conversely, Aston Martin confirmed the excellent numbers, improving by 2.4 seconds – compared to the 6-tenths gain by Ferrari in qualifying (albeit with Leclerc only doing one Q3 run)
Aston Martin AMR23: A technical mix between Red Bull and Mercedes – but Aston Martin’s unique innovations are undeniable
“This is a fantastic car to drive,” said Fernando Alonso on team radio after finishing P3 in Bahrain. Aston Martin’s excellent pace was clear even before the Bahrain GP in pre-season testing, although only a few (including Mercedes) were convinced.
Even Aston Martin was pleasantly surprised by their progression: “The feeling we had after the test was that it was too good to be true. We expected to return to reality.” The British team expected to be just behind the top-three teams, which was somewhat reflected in qualifying.
Aston was just behind both SF-23 cars in Q3, but they were quick to assert themselves as genuine threats on race day. After a difficult sequence of opening laps, partly attributed to the team’s more conservative engine mappings, the better tire management of the AMR23 eclipsed the Mercedes W14 and SF-23 machine of Carlos Sainz.
“It’s good to see three Red Bulls on the podium!” joked Sergio Perez in the post-race FIA press conference. Relations between the Milton Keynes team and Aston Martin have been suboptimal.
This has been the case since Red Bull technicians began arriving at Silverstone, starting with Dan Fallows, a top-level individual who worked alongside Andrian Newey for many years.
Helmut Marko couldn’t resist some sly remarks: “If you compare cars, Aston Martin is very similar to our car. This is because it is not only Dan Fallows who has joined Aston Martin, but also other former employees of ours – who obviously have good memories”.
The two teams’ factories are only 35 km away, half an hour by car. If the same technicians had moved to Ferrari, the change in teams would demand a change in lifestyle and a 1600km journey.
This shows how much easier it is for the British-based team to acquire technicians, and therefore know-how, compared to a team like Ferrari.
Important engineers also arrived at Aston Martin from Mercedes, just as Red Bull poached several personnel from Mercedes for their own powertrains. It is no coincidence that the Mercedes is going through an opaque period, losing important technical certainties.
Aston Martin AMR23: Heavily underweight, plenty of downforce, but little top speed. Reminiscent of the Ferrari F1-75.
However, the Silverstone-based team is keen to emphasize that the AMR23 is made from innovation – not imitation. If anything, most of their similarities are with Mercedes – given that the AMR23’s rear (engine, suspension and transmission) is bought from Mercedes, and therefore very similar.
Aston Martin has only taken a few macro characteristics have been taken from Red Bull, such as the overall aerodynamic concept and philosophy of building a car with a stable aerodynamic platform and without variation in performance.
This is to make the AMR23 more versatile and less dependent on a possible small window of use. In 2023, Aston Martin has benefited from the rear suspension changes made by Mercedes, allowing them to take full advantage of the Red Bull aerodynamic concept.
Last season, the rear suspension designed by the former world champion team actually limited the AMR22, as it limited the management of the heights from the ground since it was designed for a W13 grazing the ground.
The Red Bull aerodynamic concept has been exaggerated on the AMR23, with a downwash bowl that is not even close to a copy of Red Bull’s design. Aston Martin’s sidepods allow efficient flow shifting towards the diffuser and beam wing at different working angles – as airflow is directed by the single-seater.
It is no coincidence that this area is not covered in paint, clearly with the intention of saving weight – and that the ‘gills’ have changed.
“It’s a perfect start for us. We didn’t expect to be so competitive,” said Alonso after a dream start to 2023.
The AMR23 should provide a good basis for the next few years. This year’s car was initially expected to be the foundation for Aston to challenge the top three in 2023.
Instead, Aston Martin’s project objectives have been reached quickly. This is also thanks to some innovative solutions, such as the one on the rear wing endplate, which have been successful enough to overtake two of the top teams in Bahrain.
Thanks to its car being heavily underweight with a lot of downforce, Aston Martin’s straight-line speed is something of a weakness.
In short, the AMR23 is a mix between Red Bull and Mercedes in terms of hardware – but with behaviour similar to the Ferrari 2022. The car has limited efficiency, which, in the first race of the season, did not limit Alonso and Stroll too detrimentally.
Both were capable of overtaking the Mercedes and Ferrari cars (with higher top speeds) thanks to enjoying more grip and overall performance.
However, this is something Aston Martin will have to work on if they want to remain competitive until the end of the season – when Ferrari and Mercedes could make up some ground.
Aston Martin’s very strong tire management, although the team insists their 2023 car is 95% new, is a characteristic that has been inherited from 2022.
“It is a legacy from last year because Aston Martin was always strong on Sundays,” Alonso explained.
However, despite highly impressive tire management, the team needs to improve to allow Aston’s drivers to extract the peak performance from the tires in low runs.
“We have to improve on Saturday. This was one of last year’s weaknesses, which we reviewed in this year’s first qualifying. We have to work on that.” Alonso said.
It’s always a matter of balance, and it’s no coincidence that Ferrari and Mercedes are closer in qualifying than in the race, while Red Bull and Aston Martin struggle more to find performance in qualifying while they excel in the race.
“ Today, we didn’t think we could finish on the podium, and instead, we were the second fastest car on the track. This is a surprise,” said Alonso post-race:
“We are extremely proud and happy with the result achieved at the Silverstone plant. Let’s enjoy this moment and build our season on it .”
This result has also motivated Lawrence Stroll. According to people close to the Canadian billionaire, Lawrence Stroll has an even greater desire to succeed in F1 – and promised further investments.
Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang