Aston Martin mounting a challenge – Mehdi Earp, WCGS
After many struggles in the last two years, the Aston Martin Formula One team is resurgent at the start of the 2023 season
Half-way through the 2022 season, Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement from the sport. It was two-time world champion Fernando Alonso who revealed a shock move to replace him. Based on raw car performance, the move seemed like a mistake. But, following very promising pre-season testing, followed by two top-three finishes to kick off the season, Aston Martin and Alonso have surprised everyone.
The team went under new management in 2018 when billionaire Lawrence Stroll bought the team then named Force India. It ran under the name of Racing Point until the end of the 2020 season. Stroll then bought a share in the car company Aston Martin. He rebranded the Formula One team as Aston Martin for the 2021 season but, despite significant investment from Stroll, the team struggled for performance and results. They ended their first season 7th out of 10 and couldn’t improve the next year either.
However, in pre-season testing for the 2023 season between 23 and 25 February, Aston Martin showed very solid qualifying and long-run pace. Most people expected this to fade heading into the first race but Alonso and the owner’s son – Lance – managed 5th and 8th respectively.
In the race Alonso made several impressive overtakes on both Mercedes cars and Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari to secure a place on the podium (his 99th), behind only the two Red Bull cars. This was not met well by Mercedes which supplies Aston Martin their power unit, gearbox, hydraulics and rear suspension. For Alonso, it was a pleasant surprise, especially after many poor career decisions, such as moving back to McLaren, from Ferrari, in 2015.
A couple of weekends ago in Jeddah these feelings would have been cemented. Alonso started second and led the race for the first few laps, eventually ending up third – again, behind both Red Bulls.
Ferrari’s poor race pace and tyre management, as well as Mercedes’ general lack of performance in the first two races, has raised some questions about who will be able to mount a challenge against Red Bull this season. The team won the drivers and constructors championships quite comfortably last season and started this one with two very dominant performances. They clearly have the fastest car and secured a one–two finish in the race in both Bahrain and Jeddah.
So, is it going to be Alonso and Aston Martin that will be able to catch Red Bull before they run away with both championships? Perhaps it would only be a fight for the driver’s championship, though, as Lance Stroll has not shown the needed pace that Alonso’s has been able to produce. But the team have already hinted at upgrades to come later in the season and it seems inevitable that they will soon be fighting for race wins and disturbing Red Bull’s dominance.
It was only a few years ago that Lawrence Stroll said his investment was for the long-term and that it was a “5-year plan”. Almost nobody believed it, but this strong start to the season may suggest that the plan is coming to fruition early. It involved an increase in personnel from 400 to 740 and a brand-new production facility is being built for car-development from May this year. Given that the team has enjoyed success already – and with the continual investments being made – it would be reasonable to assume that championships could be on the way soon.