Alonso: Aston Martin “added downforce” with F1 Imola GP package, but balance limitations hampering progress

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Aston Martin head into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix as a team under pressure. Their sizeable updates brought to the Imola Grand Prix did not work as well as hoped.

Neither driver made Q3, with Fernando Alonso going out in Q1. Lance Stroll managed to finish P9 in the race itself as he came through from P13.

Speaking in his media session ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, the Spaniard agreed with Stroll’s assessment that the car is understeering mid-corner, with the AMR24 oversteering on entry.

While the two-time F1 World Champion is convinced that the car has more downforce following the updates, they need to work on the balance to improve the feeling in the corners so the drivers can get more time out of the car with the extra downforce they now have.

“Yeah, basically I think we both have similar feelings on the car and similar comments.

“There are a couple of set-up tools and directions that could improve that, something that we’ve been testing also in Imola, for example on my car on Sunday.

“But yeah, fundamentally I think we need to keep working on the balance of the car.

“We added downforce with all the upgrades that we brought to the track. But we still cannot use all that downforce in an efficient way in lap time, because the balance maybe is not totally perfect in the corners.

“But I think we understand this. We have a couple of ideas that in the next development of the cars and upgrades and we’ll try to fix those kind of problems.

“We are not blind into the dark, we are aware of the situation.

“But at the same time it’s the nature of these cars as well. As you add downforce they become a little bit more critical and more difficult to drive, and this is something that we need to fix.”

The 32-time Grand Prix confirmed he tested the upgrades on the simulator ahead of Imola, but he days that cannot replicate what happens behind the wheel of a real car regarding balance and the nature of how circuits are in real life.

Friday’s practice sessions are even more important for the team as they look to solve the balance woes.

“Yeah, the simulator is a little bit more […] it forgives you many of the things that the track doesn’t.

“And when you put the numbers, the theoretical numbers on the simulator you just get faster, without too many problems on balance and things like that.

“So the simulator is a great tool for the engineers, for the drivers to learn tracks and things like that. But for the last detail of the set-up or the last behaviour on track, I think the simulator is still not as the real car.

“We need to work on Friday’s a little bit more now.”

Alonso had one of his worst weekends in F1 at Imola a few days ago. He crashed in FP3 at turn 18, and he went off in qualifying as he got knocked out in Q1. Sunday turned into a test session.The Spaniard was not happy with his own performance in Miami.

Speaking about the last two events, Alonso says he went into test mode at Imola, not concerning himself about the possibility of getting a P9 — the result he got in Miami — as he wants to solve Aston’s troubles.

Although be believes the AMR24 has been improved with the updates, other teams have made bigger steps, such as McLaren.

“I think we dropped in performance relative to the others. I think we increased the performance that our car had but the others seemed to make a step a little bit bigger than us, and we dropped a little bit in terms of positions.

“In my case, I think I was not perfect on those two races. I was not driving well enough in Miami.

“And in Imola I think it was more the search of answers that drives me sometimes on a weekend that I know the goals will not be good enough to satisfy us or myself.

“When you are not fighting for top 5 or top 7 or whatever, sometimes you switch into a set-up thing or test weekend, because to finish P9 I prefer to fix the problems of the car, give up that weekend and start from scratch on the next one.

“And I think it’s what happened in Imola a little bit in FP3 and then in quali and the race, which obviously on one side is good because maybe you accelerate a little bit the fix of the problems.

“In the other side that weekend is maybe 0 points or you are a little bit less competitive than normal.

“You need to combine normal weekends where you maximise the package and the points that are available. Even if it’s P9, [you take] P9.

“And some other weekends you need to think if we give up P9 today because we need to shortcut a little bit the time that we have for fixing the car.”

In 2023, Aston Martin came out of the traps with the second fastest car in the first third of the campaign. As the season progressed, however, they generally fell to filth fastest or worse on some weekends, such as Mexico when they ended up absolutely nowhere on pace.

For McLaren, the story has been an upward trajectory. Struggling to get out of Q1 until Austria last year, the Woking-based squad arguably has the fastest car in F1 now, showing remarkable progress with a series of upgrade packages over the last 10 months.

Asked if Aston’s recent struggles to keep up with Ferrari and McLaren shows the team has a way to go to fight with the best, Alonso says the complex nature of Formula One and the cars is a big factor.

He added that Lawrence Stroll’s mentality and desire to do well will see them get out of the hole they find themselves in quicker than other teams could.

“Well, it still shows that this is a complex sport. McLaren until Austria race 7 last year they were fighting for Q1, and they have a great team, great people, great facilities and a great brand as well behind. And they were out of Q1.

“And then you find something that the car is alive and then you are changing everything. And it’s the same for us.

“Last year until mid-season we were the team to look at and to copy. And yet suddenly you can quickly take two or three steps backwards.

“So now we need to focus on ourselves, get back there.

“I think different to other teams we have a great leader with Lawrence. We have not only the owner of the team but also a very extremely competitive person behind [it], and we will fix things quicker than other teams thanks to him, I think.”