Aston Martin F1 wants to “keep chipping away” at improving the AMR24 to try and catch Red Bull Racing

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Red Bull has made a very strong start in the current Formula 1 season, but Aston Martin has hinted that they can be challenged as the campaign goes on.

Aston Martin Performance Director Tom McCullough believes that they can be caught, referencing McLaren’s big gains last year as an example.

During the first two rounds of the year, in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, respectively, the Milton Keynes-based team came in first and second. Its dominant campaign last year resulted in 21 victories out of 22 races, so this strong start to 2024 is no surprise.

The 2023 season was also a breakthrough one for Aston Martin, as the team finished fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, up two spots from the previous year, largely thanks to Fernando Alonso with eight podium finishes. The Spaniard scored six of them in the first eight races as Aston Martin ran as high as P2 at one point.

Nevertheless, since the implementation of the ground effect cars and new regulations in 2022, Aston Martin and all the other teams have been unable to consistently compete with Red Bull at the front of the field.

For their “completely different” AMR24, Aston Martin pointed out the DRS as a critical component to concentrate on. The large advantage — particularly early on — during the 2023 season was largely attributed to Red Bull’s usage of the drag reduction system, which allowed them to stall the rear wing and dump significantly more drag than their opponents when the flap was open. A case in point was the ease at which Max Verstappen moved through the field in Jeddah to finish P2.

Aston Martin started introducing enhancements towards the end of the year in an attempt to imitate what was happening with the RB19, as other teams caught on to what the Milton Keynes-based outfit was doing.

Over the past few years, Aston Martin invested a lot of money into its Formula 1 project, completing their new building with vastly improved facilities at Silverstone.

Aston decided to adopt a new aerodynamic design for the 2024 model in an effort to make the most of its DRS.

In-season car development has also been a big priority as the team looks to make steps. They fell away as last season went on, allowing McLaren to come from over a hundred points adrift to claim P4 in the Constructors’ Championship.

“We went with quite a different philosophy with the car, aerodynamically, at the start of the year to try and give ourselves a platform to keep developing,” he said.

“At the moment, development is pretty good although it is a relative game.

“We had some bits [in Saudi Arabia], which were a good step on the car, and we very rarely race the same spec of the car.

“At the moment, we’re in that phase where we are able to develop well with our development tools, so it is about getting those bits to the track as quickly as possible and hoping that the development continues.

The AMR23 lacked efficiency and was relatively slow on the straights last year. It’s a key area the team has been working on to improve to make it easier for their drivers to defend and attack.

“The DRS is very much one of the design criteria that we have, and we just want to keep chipping away at improving the car and getting closer to the front of the grid.”

Throughout their days as Force India, Racing Point and Aston Martin, the Silverstone squad has generally had a faster package on race day compared to qualifying. With the likes of Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso at the wheel, their excellent tyre management could be used.

However, Alonso fell back to a distant P9 in the Bahrain Grand Prix after qualifying 6th. In Saudi Arabia, Aston focused on race running through practice to try and get that strength back. The Spaniard was much stronger in the race at Jeddah, finishing P5 as he just missed out on the front row and P3 in qualifying.

“Historically we’ve tended to race strongly and found qualifying little bit harder. The characteristics of this car, it’s quite a different car for us aerodynamically.

“We’re learning how to get the most out of it. We approached this weekend with the strategy of trying to improve the long runs and not really worrying too much about where we qualified, with very much the engineering focus of trying to have a good car looking after its rear tyres in the race, and let’s see how we qualify with it.”