Stroll: Aston F1 “have added overall downforce but made the car kind of trickier to drive”

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Photo credits: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team

Lance Stroll spoke during media day of the Qatar Grand Prix about what he can do to improve his performance and the costly impact of missing out on pre-season testing. His remarks were those of a man speaking openly and with a strong desire to finish the season strongly.

The 24-year-old was in good spirits on the Thursday of the Qatar Grand Prix weekend – the day before the now infamous shoving incident. Stroll spoke to journalists about the struggles the team have been having with the AMR23.

“Yeah, it’s been rough. It’s been a rough season to be honest. I mean since kind of the first few races it’s kind of been difficult and you know a lot of stuff has happened. Reliability issues and unfortunate circumstances and also just speed at times. It’s just been not really there and it’s just things to learn from and kind of now there’s nothing we can do about it…just push forward and you know finish as strong as possible,” Stroll stated.

As much as the AMR23 has been temperamental and certainly not benefited from some of its more recent updates, Stroll still holds his hands up with regard to reflecting on his own performances. However, he is keen to rightly point out how unfortunate the team have been on occasion as well.

“There’s definitely things in my control too I feel like there’s things I can work on, you know, improve to be faster. But there’s also been a huge amount of, I guess, just kind of unfortunate circumstances when I look throughout the year. From Saudi running in P4 having the engine problem there from having a good weekend in Austria to you know getting a pit stop exactly at the Virtual Safety Car time. In Canada, putting on wrong tyres in qualifying instead of a new set – we accidentally put on an old set of intermediates – which makes a huge difference in the end results and just multiple things like that. Last week [at Suzuka] running kind of a decent race at the start having the wing failure.

“Just things happening and missing out on opportunities to you know score big points and at the end sometimes it’s like that. But there’s definitely things I can improve on and things we can improve on as a group to be stronger and now I’m just looking forward at the rest of the season and what we can do to finish strong.” explained Stroll.

He also reflected on the missed track time back in February of this year after his accident while training. The ‘minor’ incident ruled him out of the three-day session and with that in mind, Stroll was asked if he felt he had always been playing catchup and there had been a figurative hangover from that process.

“For sure there is, there will naturally be, missing the beginning of testing and a bunch of items that you try at that time of the year that you don’t really have as much of a chance to try throughout the season and you kind of get an idea of what the car does when you do this with the mechanical balance or this with the aero balance.

“For sure there’s probably moments where I think back to that and I’m like ‘oh it would have been nice to have that time in the car’ it always is nice to have time in the car, but I also feel that when the car’s under me and I have confidence to push. I mean it’s been a great car at the beginning of the year we saw that, and the car was really competitive, and I didn’t feel like I really lacked much from missing winter testing. I felt really good in the car and it’s just kind of a little bit sometimes for sure I always feel like there’s test items and stuff that you know you try preseason testing and prepare yourself for what the car does if you do this, that and the other. I didn’t really get that seat time to try out those things,” Stroll reflected.

Aston Martin has struggled in recent months after starting the season in such a commanding manner with regular podiums for the team’s talismanic racer Fernando Alonso. Lance Stroll, the team’s less experienced racer but equally hungry for success, attempted to pinpoint where he feels the lack in performance has come from.

“I think we took some directions with philosophy of kind of bringing upgrades aerodynamically, but I don’t think it made us go the step forward that we were hoping for. So, we’re trying to understand that and kind of bring some stuff to the car in the season now to fix that and help the characteristic that we had earlier in the season when the car was more predictable and easier to drive – more forgiving. Which I think we’ve lost some of that. So, it’s just about understanding why because in theory we want to make the car go faster but I think we might have added a kind of overall downforce but made the car kind of trickier to drive and stuff. So, I think the big goal now is to get back to kind of that place at the beginning of the year where I felt like we had a car that was just easier to drive behaving better and yeah that’s always nice when you have that feeling in the car,” Stroll concluded.

When race day did arrive on Sunday, Stroll had a starting position of 16th and having finished the Grand Prix P9 on the road was classified P11 after two track-limits penalties. The reason being that in his words he was “passing out basically in the high-speed corners”. However, as Stroll made clear in his Thursday media day remarks – even with all the struggles of the season and frustration to date, he certainly is not looking for any sympathy.

“Oh, it’s not hard. I mean I get to race Formula One cars and go Grand Prix racing so it’s a great thing to do,”

Next up is a trip to Austin and another Sprint weekend. This may bode well for Stroll seeing how he is a fan of the event: “It’s tough, I mean it’s the challenge of a sprint weekend, but I enjoy the sprint weekends they’re exciting from start to finish.”

The Canadian will certainly hope to have a great end to the season as Aston Martin face the challenge of remaining in front of a resurgent McLaren F1 Team which is now consistently securing podium finishes.

The Woking-based manufacturer is just 11 points behind Aston Martin in the Constructors’ Championship now. However, with only 5 race weekends of the season remaining and upgrades supposedly on the horizon – not to mention two determined racers in their ranks – maybe Aston Martin will still do just enough to stay out in front of their in-form competition.