The big surprise of the recently started season in Formula 1 is being Aston Martin. Out of nowhere, almost like someone who doesn’t want the thing, the British team has gone from being ninth or seventh on the gridfrom fighting with Haas, Williams and AlphaTauri, to present their credentials to revelation of the year, and be able to threaten the hegemonic position of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari. In just eight months, as if the signing of a rejuvenated Fernando Alonso would have given them a new impulse, they have stopped aspiring to score points, to look in the face of the biggest teams of the ‘Great Circus’, in search of podiums and victories.
And there are many reasons, many reasons that can explain the exponential growth of the brand resident in Silverstone. They are still working tirelessly to finish their new factorywith the best facilities on the scene and with a own new wind tunnel, with the intention of opening it in 2024, and they have subsisted these months by renting the Red Bull wind tunnel on weekends. However, they have been able to create a very competitive car.
Aston Martin signings: Fallows, Blandin…
investment of Lawrence Stroll in the team, together with the significant injection of money from sponsors such as Aramco, have facilitated that much-needed renewal at Aston Martin, but have also allowed the arrival of three proper names who have revolutionized their way of working, and their knowledge of current Formula 1, to build a car “that is a pleasure to drive”, as Alonso himself acknowledged after his podium finish in Bahrain on the back of the AMR23.
The curious thing with these three names, two of them in particular of vital importance to understand the initial success of Aston Martin in 2023, and above all to understand that it is still a “base car” (as the Asturian pilot also indicated), It’s not just who they are, but where they come from. In Formula 1, it is common for the drivers to take the spotlight, but the signings of engineers and mechanics, much less publicized and more silent, can tip the balance in favor of one and the other.
That’s why Lawrence Stroll knew what he was doing when he signed Luca FurbattoAston Martin engineering director from Alfa Romeo, and above all, he knew what he was doing when signing Dan FallowsAdrian Newey’s right-hand man at Red Bull and head of aerodynamics for the Austrians, Eric Blandin, head of aerodynamics at Mercedes. Two of the best brains in the paddockat the service of a team with a lot of untapped potential, and with a safe bet as a two-time world champion behind the wheel to get the most out of AMR23, and to read it like no one else in order to perfect it later.
A commendable job that of both engineers, who also have prepared for the season a series of improvements that could modify up to two thirds of the current car. However, this work, together with Alonso’s talent, has begun to raise blisters among the greats, especially among those most affected by the departure of Fallows and Blandin, both Red Bull and Mercedes.
Mercedes: the student surpasses the manufacturer
The case of Mercedes is especially bloody. They lost Blandin, and are also official suppliers to Aston Martin. That is, Mercedes provides Aston Martin with the power units (engine and hybrid part), gearbox and rear suspensionbut he finished the first race of the year with both drivers behind the greens (Alonso easily overtook Hamilton, and Stroll, still injured, could also beat Russell).
As expected, this face-to-face defeat so early in the season, and with the potential for growth that the AMR23 still seems to reserve, has raised blisters within the German team. They admit that something “misses them” in the front of the green carwhere they believe the main difference between them lies, and instead of accepting and admitting AM’s initial superiority, to try to improve their own car, they throw balls out and accuse the Silverstone team of having copied them.
“Congratulations to Aston MartinThey have done an amazing job. We have work to do, because half of his car is ours. We have a lot of work to do. We just have to add downforce to the car because we are missing a lot. As soon as we put more load on the front and rear, we’ll pick up the pace,” Lewis Hamilton said as soon as the Bahrain Grand Prix finished, with a half-smile denoting disbelief at what had happened and some resentment at having been left so far behind.
The Germans continue to suffer with a unique car concept on the grid, with completely different sidepods to the others, and perhaps there, and not in the ‘copies’ of Aston Martin reside their main problems. Some problems that disturb them, above all, because they don’t know if they will be able to solve them in time to no longer fight for the constructors’ championship, but rather to match the brand they supply.
Besides, ‘capture’ engines (supply engines with less power or CVs to other teams) it is strictly prohibited by the FIA, so the reliability of Aston Martin and its engines does not seem to be at risk. They won’t be able to get past them that way, and with the spending limitations and wind tunnel hours, his chances of reducing gaps and not stagnating aerodynamically as the fourth car on the grid decrease even more. Therefore, the big question they ask is: How has Aston Martin been able to build a better car than the W14 using your own components?
Red Bull: brain drain… with their own ideas
At Red Bull, Aston Martin’s performance has also drawn attention, and Dan Fallows’ departure hurt a lot despite the continuity of genius engineer Adrian Newey. They still do not pose a real threat, although Marko Helmut He already stressed that they were his main rivals in Bahrain. However, at the end of the Grand Prix, the former Austrian driver himself attacked Aston Martin, perhaps out of fear of being matched throughout the season by the English team.
First it was Sergio Pérez, at a press conference, who insinuated with a smile that three Red Bull cars had climbed to Sakhir’s podium, and Marko later endorsed those words: “Today we had three Red Bull on the podium, only the last one with a different engine! It’s true, what Fallows had in his head cannot be erased. Focus copying is not prohibited, but Can you copy in such detail without having documentation of our car? I guess Fallows and the rest of the staff have a good memory.”
Some of the most striking accusations, that Aston Martin has ‘stolen’ talent and intellectual property from them, taking into account that Red Bull has already ‘stolen’ half of its engineers from Mercedes to reinforce its engine division. However, that seems to be the discourse established in the Milton Keynes team, as Christian Horner also confirmed: “They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery and it’s good that the old car runs so well. According to the result of the race, they are the second strongest team.”
That ‘old car’ Horner is referring to could be the RB18, or even the rumored Parallel version of last year’s RB18on which Dan Fallows could have started working, what they had in mind before the regulation change in 2022. Be that as it may, that almost identical resemblance that they talk about in Red Bull does not exist anywhere.
The parts that Mercedes does not make have nothing to do with the RB19. nor the pontoons they look alike (the AM ones are more daring), nor the ailerons The front ones are the same, nor are the rear ones alike (the one on the AM imitates the “Coanda” effect of Red Bull’s blown diffusers in 2010), nor the concept of the front suspensions has nothing to do (push rod vs pull rod).
Therefore, a fundamental question remains in the air for the future of the season:Is the AMR23 really a copy of Red Bull and Mercedes… or are both teams afraid of being overtaken or unseated by their own ‘disciples’? Of course, Dan Fallows left the Austrians with one ambition: to get out of Newey’s shadow and create his own winning car, with his own ideas, and it doesn’t seem like copying others is the path he has chosen.
Innovate, don’t copy, is what causes concern in some, and panic in others. The season is very long, everything can change in a matter of thousandths, but it seems that Aston Martin is not only here to stay, but to challenge the status quo of Formula 1 this year.