In the last edition of the Formula 1 World Championship, Aston Martin was one of the most disappointing teams. In a season characterized by the introduction of new technical regulations, which had completely changed the characteristics of the cars, the British team’s projects had not given the desired results. Aston Martin had finished the championship in seventh place, without a single podium finish and with a sixth place as their best result.
Barely four months after last season’s final race, Aston Martin have already secured two third-place finishes and are surprisingly second in the constructors’ championship, tied with Mercedes and 12 points clear of Ferrari. Both podium finishes were obtained by Fernando Alonso, the two-time world champion who is now, at 42, celebrated almost as much as he was in the days of the titles won with Renault.
Aston Martin’s latest results came as no surprise. In the winter tests both Alonso and Lance Stroll, the co-driver, had stood out by setting some of the fastest times. In free practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, then, Alonso had even recorded the best time ever in the second session, confirming what had been seen before.
Between tests and trials, however, something else was noticed in this new Aston Martin.
Compared to last season, the Aston Martin cars have changed profoundly and some aerodynamic parts, especially the sides, now look a lot like those of Red Bull, the best team in the World Championship. The drivers also noticed this, so much so that in the first podium of the season Red Bull’s Sergio Perez had joked that he was between two Red Bull drivers, even though teammate Max Verstappen was next to him was Alonso ( who was laughing as Perez spoke).
Copying “on sight” is the custom of Formula 1, even more so after a season – the past one – in which the teams showed up with very different cars. Some of these had inevitably found themselves with underperforming cars, if not downright wrong, and as early as last season those most in difficulty had started to remedy it by taking inspiration from cars that worked better. In the case of Aston Martin, then, last April, after the World Championship had begun, engineer Dan Follows, head of aerodynamics at Red Bull since 2014 and close collaborator of chief designer Adrian Newey, the engineer who designs the Red Bull for almost twenty years.
The Aston Martin ownership also has a history of such practices. The current team is in fact the Formula 1 heir to Racing Point, taken over in 2018 by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, who is also the main investor behind the recent relaunch of the Aston Martin brand, as well as the father of the driver Lance Stroll.
Stroll is described as a very ambitious entrepreneur, with equally aggressive methods and oriented towards achieving results at any cost. His entry into Formula 1 was an example of this. In 2020, the then Racing Point designed its single-seater by copying the Mercedes W10 that had won the World Championship in the previous season, as well as using its engines. He did so by insinuating himself between the folds of the regulations and, despite the penalty received in the middle of the championship for having copied too much and in an illegal way, he finished the World Championship as fourth team, with 64 points more than Ferrari.
Now Stroll’s cars are green instead of pink, but the methods have not changed. The unchanged ambitions of Aston Martin and Stroll could already be seen at the end of last season, when after the announcement of the retirement of its first driver, former world champion Sebastian Vettel, the English team took advantage of a stalemate in the renewal negotiations between Alonso and Renault-Alpine to sign the Spanish driver from one day to the next.
To remedy last season’s difficulties, some of the most esteemed engineers in circulation were also hired in the last year, such as the Italian Luca Furbatto, former designer of Toro Rosso and Sauber. The close collaboration also continues with Mercedes, which in addition to continuing to supply the engines, sells various mechanical parts to Aston Martin, such as the suspensions and transmissions: a practice envisaged by the Formula 1 regulations, albeit within certain limits, but often criticized by those who would like more independent stables.
In the test phase, even the Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton had been surprised by the performance of the Aston Martin, so much so that he wondered how he could be faster, if “half the car” came from Mercedes. Given the results obtained so far, some have even made fun of the fact that Mercedes could in turn copy the set-up of the cars of a team to which it sells the mechanical parts, but which in terms of aerodynamics is inspired by the reigning world champion Red Bull .
– Read also: The complicated hundred years of Aston Martin