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Formula 1

Aston Martin's unwanted F1 pattern is risking Stroll's ire

by Josh Suttill
5 min read

If you’ve pumped hundreds of millions of pounds into a Formula 1 team, hired two world champion drivers, recruited championship-winning designers and invested in state-of-the-art facilities, you expect a big return on that investment.

It’s rarely that simple in F1 but the worrying trend - a repeat trend at that - in Aston Martin's performances is going to seriously test the patience of its billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll.

Stroll wanted the team to close on Red Bull’s A-team this year. But instead, it’s now in danger of being overhauled by Red Bull’s B-team…

No longer a 'top five' team

Monaco GP

Aston began 2024 just about hanging onto F1’s top four teams, with Fernando Alonso inside the top six on the grid in four of the five opening rounds.

He’d usually slip back in the races but Aston was still only 12 points behind its engine supplier Mercedes at that stage - and with a second driver who only added points on two of those occasions.

But as McLaren debuted its race-winning upgrade in Miami and Ferrari improved its SF-24, Aston was left behind. Even Mercedes’ marginal gains have given it some breathing room to Aston.

Aston’s Imola upgrade has yielded no meaningful improvement and hasn’t prevented a dramatic slip backwards in performance in the last three rounds.

Some mitigating factors make the downward spiral look worse - namely traffic preventing Alonso from getting out of Q1 in Monaco - but it’s still far from a pretty picture for Aston. To the point where, on Sunday that same Monaco weekend, Yuki Tsunoda said RB can now target supplanting Aston as F1’s fifth-fastest team.

Yuki Tsunoda, RB, F1

“There are a bottom four teams, I would say, we're kind of individual [above them], and we're slowly starting catching up with Aston as well,” Tsunoda said.

“A lot of developments are coming in the next races - so hopefully those developments or upgrades will give us an extra couple of tenths and maybe we can catch up to Aston.”

That sentiment was put to Alonso after he’d finished 11th in the Monaco GP.

“Yeah, I mean, looking at the result, we are not anymore in the top-five group, but this is a question more for Mike [Krack, Aston team principal],” Alonso said.

A worrying trend has returned

Mike Krack, Aston Martin, F1

Krack couldn’t be asked whether Aston was at risk of slipping behind RB because his post-race media session was cancelled, owing to the delays caused by the red flag.

But even within the team’s own press release, there was a frank admission from Krack after a disastrous qualifying where Stroll and Alonso were 14th and 16th.

"It has been a really tough day in Monaco and disappointing for our fans, the drivers and all of the team,” Krack said.

“There are no excuses, we simply did not have a race car capable of reaching the top 10 [on Saturday]. The margins are very small, and we were on the wrong side of them.

“Going forward we need to bring more performance to the AMR24.”

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, F1

Bringing in-season performance has been Aston’s main problem since it leapt up the pecking order at the start of 2023, a jump that, while still impressive, retrospectively looks more and more like it was being flattered by other teams floundering.

Aston billed its 2024 upgrade plan as “quite aggressive” and Imola marked its biggest upgrade so far - in fact, bigger in terms of declared changes than what Ferrari and Red Bull brought that weekend - with a revised front wing, nose, floor, diffuser, engine cover and rear corner, including rear suspension.

But much like the upgrades it brought during 2023, there’s a lack of evidence that it’s added relative performance to the car.

Aston’s fallen further away from the front group and into the clutches of the leading midfield team. Last year it was Alpine, this time it’s RB.

Points in last three rounds

Ferrari - 101
McLaren - 88
Red Bull - 81
Mercedes - 44
RB - 17
Aston Martin - 4
Haas - 2
Williams - 2
Alpine - 2
Sauber - 0

Another unwelcome reoccurring theme is the worsening driveability of the car.

Krack labelled the AMR24 “difficult to drive” after Alonso’s crash in final practice at Imola - one of the weakest weekends of the two-time champion’s F1 career so far.

This echoed Alonso’s uncharacteristic couple of spins across the Mexican Grand Prix last year amid the nadir of Aston almost completely losing its way in late 2023.

A big test of patience

Raquel Stroll and Lawrence Stroll, F1

If Aston’s slump during the second half of 2023 wasn’t enough to test the patience of Aston’s uber-ambitious owner Lawrence Stroll and the rest of the board, its stuttering 2024 is going to.

Stroll invested in a 400,000-square feet F1 ‘campus’ including the Silverstone-based outfit’s first-ever windtunnel (it’s still using Mercedes’ windtunnel for now), state-of-the-art simulator and design, manufacturing and marketing hub.

Its 2025 car will be the first to benefit from the new windtunnel but its campus opened mid-last year and should be helping its 2024 car - so too should its simulator that was scheduled to come online in early 2024.

But Stroll will be expecting results before all of that comes into play, along with the works Honda engine deal from 2026.

With Aston staggering, you have to wonder who would carry the can if Stroll decides to look at who's at fault.

F1’s recent high turnover of team bosses and senior technical personnel means the market offers no shortage of potential replacements for any of Aston’s leading figures.

Last week Italian magazine La Gazzetta dello Sport reported ex-Ferrari F1 boss Mattia Binotto was in talks with Aston, now that his period of Ferrari gardening leave is believed to have ended. That wouldn’t necessarily involve Binotto becoming Aston’s new team boss, but instead could result in him spearheading its technical department, slotting in above Dan Fallows.

Mattia Binotto, F1

Binotto’s made multiple appearances in F1 paddocks since his Ferrari departure, and appears keen on a new project - but would have plenty of potential options outside of Aston, too.

Any technical recruitments made this year will be particularly crucial for the team’s prospects for the start of F1’s new car and engine rules in 2026.

So don’t expect Stroll to hesitate before making the moves he needs to, in order to ensure that Aston is delivering results to match his investment.

Imola and Monaco will have been a big wake-up call to everyone at Aston. To struggle so badly at the latter, a track where it almost won last year, will have hurt.

Next up is a circuit where Alonso finished second last year - Montreal. There, Aston will have the chance to either start course-correcting or edge closer to some heads rolling.

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