F1 News: Why the Aston Martin upgrades haven’t worked

Aston Martin AMR23, CanadianGP
Fernando Alonso (ESP) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR23. 18.06.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

Aston Martin was undoubtedly the big surprise of 2023. Lawrence Stroll’s team, together with Williams, made the biggest leap in performance over the winter break. Up until a few weeks ago, the AMR23 was the second-fastest team, allowing Fernando Alonso to fight for podiums consistently and become this year’s feel-good F1 news story.

However, the ground effect cars are still ‘new’ for all the teams and have ample room for development, meaning that the pecking order ​​can change every week

Teams can go from hero to zero within a few weeks, with plenty of surprises and variations taking place behind the dominant Red Bull team.

Aston Martin admits their updates haven’t fully worked

The Aston Martin development program saw the introduction of an important package divided into two appointments: a new front wing in Barcelona and a new bottom, coupled with modifications to the sidepods in Canada

In Spain, there were many problems. The weather didn’t allow the setup to be fine-tuned, and in qualifying, with a track excursion at the last corner at the start of Q1, Fernando Alonso damaged the floor, limiting his performance.

Even after the permitted repairs to the Spaniard’s AMR23, the English car found itself outside the optimal window of use in the race. Significant instabilities were generated by the high-load package, especially in the fast sectors of the Spanish track.

Aston Martin
The bottom and the new undercut introduced by Aston Martin in Canada – Illustration Rosario Giuliana

In Canada, the AMR23 was then second strength, very close to a Red Bull, not in its best shape, and on a track that totally exalted the technical excellence of the Silverstone team’s project.

However, from then on, Mike Krack’s team seemed to lose direction with increasingly difficult weekends, starting from Austria, then touching Silverstone and Hungary. Was it more of a deterioration of Aston Martin or a strong progress of Ferrari, Mercedes and above all McLaren? 

The answer lies in the middle. From the Silverstone headquarters, they categorically deny that the Federation was the one to limit the AMR23, with the release of the canonical technical clarifications during the current season, this year concentrated above all on the ‘bottom’ macro component. 

While they claim it’s more of an internal matter, team principal Mike Krack, at least publicly, has often defended the work of his technical group.

His initial comments on these developments were that “the updates worked as expected, but when you bring in new piecesit can take even longer time to make the most of them. They can bring performance, but also contraindications.”

The floor introduced in Canada generated more downforce, but caused Aston Martin to lose their operating window

The AMR23 has always been a car with an aerodynamic concept, not so much from an aesthetic but a practical sense, very similar to Red Bull.

It generally suffered very few peaks in terms of aerodynamic load but enjoyed a very wide operating window.

The purpose of the update brought by Aston Martin in Canada was to increase the downforce generated by the floor while also improving the efficiency of the AMR23.

All without affecting the excellent balance window and operation of the English car. A goal achieved, but not in its entirety. 

In fact, the new floor ensured a greater quantity of downforce produced by the underbody, but this produced unpleasant effects on the balance sheet and, above all, significantly reduced the window of use.

Before these changes, the AMR23 had been an immediately competitive car on track, with a setup that was easy to optimise.

Unfortunately for Aston, these first crucial developments threw away these characteristics and made the car much more sensitive.

Aston Martin AMR23 with modified bottom and bellies in Canada

In the simulator, the car had taken an important step forward. However, according to the engineers of the English team, these ground-effect cars can only be  ‘reliably’ understood when they are on track.

Mercedes went to the track in 2022 thinking they had a W13 capable of fighting for the title, and the same happened to Ferrari with the SF-23.

The numbers of the ‘virtual world’ are sometimes misleading because “this new generation of cars is much more sensitive,” Mike Krack has explained.

This is especially true for the floors, which produce the majority of the load, and are subject to variables that are difficult to predict in the wind tunnel.

These include the types of asphalt, track depressions, wind direction, temperature variations and other technical factors. Often, these areas can generate significant surprises for technicians, even in such a technologically advanced way.

Spa’s corrections gave initial positive responses, but Ferrari and Mercedes are still faster

In Belgium, Aston Martin introduced the first corrections to alleviate the defects that emerged from updates that arrived between the Spanish and Canadian GPs. 

According to team principal Mike Krack, “The data seem positive from what we’ve seen. Still, we didn’t ride much in the dry, so our conclusion is provisional,” making comments very similar to Alonso post-race.

The car here felt more normal and more competitive than before. After Silverstone and Hungary, we made some changes also in terms of setup, and here it paid off.”

Aston Martin AMR23 with the modifications introduced in Belgium

Therefore, in addition to the circuit-specific changes to the single profile beam wing and a low-load rear wing, the most important change was between the lower part of the sidepods and the floor.

Specifically, the angle that is created in the lower part of the sidepods and which connects to the floor, was much less pronounced in the Belgium specification.

The lower edge of the sidepods was again flatter and no longer dug inwards, returning to a solution clearly inspired by the early AMR23 season.

These first innovations are a (technical) step backwards but in the right direction

Other changes will arrive in the first races after the summer break, aimed at returning to the wide operating window from early in the season – which allowed the AMR23 to dominate over Ferrari and Mercedes and become the hot topic of F1 news outlets.

Author: Paolo D’Alessandro & Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang