Christian Horner has praised Aston Martin for its performances in 2023, admitting that the Silverstone-based team is one of the biggest long-term threats to Red Bull on the grid.
The Austrian squad has a commanding lead in both Championships, to such a degree that Max Verstappen has more points on his own (170) than second-place Mercedes (152) in the standings.
Limited time in the wind tunnel has done little to stop Red Bull’s progression, which continued seamlessly over the winter as rivals Ferrari and Mercedes lost ground.
Although much has been made of Aston Martin’s resurgence this season, the Milton Keynes squad has taken a similarly impressive forward step.
The Spanish GP was another exhibition from the RB19, an unmatched piece of machinery at the hands of Max Verstappen. However, there were some important developments directly behind the Austrian team.
Mercedes showed significant progress with the newly-upgraded W14, clearly the nearest challenger to Red Bull over a race distance at the Barcelona circuit.
It’s worth noting that even the troubled W13 was competitive in Spain last season, so it would be premature to celebrate last weekend as an undeniable sign of progress.
Still, there is reason to believe the early gremlins that have plagued the German works team are in the past.
Looking elsewhere, Aston Martin experienced their worst-performing weekend of 2023, with Fernando Alonso spending much of his afternoon battling in the upper midfield.
Considering the expectation created by the Spaniard’s fantastic three days in Monte Carlo (and the season more generally), this development was undoubtedly a significant blow.
Nevertheless, even with the AMR23’s unexpected lack of performance in Catalunya, Christian Horner is still weary of their upward trajectory:
“We have a lot less wind-tunnel time than you guys [Aston Martin,” he told Pedro De la Rosa on DAZN.
“So we’re having to be very selective about how we use that time, and also thinking about next year as well – so it’s about finding that balance.”
“When you look at all that experience, you can see what Fernando’s brought to Aston Martin – which is still a young team.”
“There are lots of new guys there; they took a few guys from us.
“For us, I think the team that we’re most keeping an eye on for the future is the Aston team – because you can see they have a strong energy.”
Aston Martin’s recently announced agreement with Honda is evidence of the ambition within Lawrence Stroll’s team to become autonomous in Formula 1.
Whilst this year has proven that being a customer team is far from a death sentence, controlling every aspect of a car’s aerodynamics and power unit development is a key advantage.
The freedom to design a car without working around an externally developed power unit will undoubtedly be a tremendous boost moving forward.
Making predictions for 2026 would be a pointless exercise, especially since Aston Martin’s focus remains on 2023 and optimising its upcoming updates to start putting pressure on Red Bull.
To be clear, it is difficult to envisage any scenario where the RB19 is not the strongest force on the grid – at least before the season’s final stages.
However, if Aston’s mid-season development from 2022 is anything to go by, their upgrade programme could see the AMR23 take significant strides in closing the gap to the front.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang