Aston Martin’s new AMR23 is a departure from the car that preceded it – a 95% change from the AMR22, according to the team’s technical director Dan Fallows. Despite the notable shift on the design front, the team isn’t talking up a surprise title challenge this year, but is rather hoping to set the baseline for a considered long-term plan that it hopes will move it to the fore.
The team has “evolved the technical structure” over the last year according to Fallows, something it has been able to do having entered the cost cap era as one of F1’s smaller teams, thereby not needing to downsize. Fallows joined the team from Red Bull in April 2022, while aerodynamicist Eric Bandin – also ex-Red Bull as well as Ferrari and Mercedes – and Luca Furbatto (Alfa Romeo) also joined last year as deputy technical director and engineering director respectively, while long-term technical director Andy Green moved into a wider role within Aston Martin as chief technical officer, working on projects outside of F1.
The car, while a different beast to what came before it, will no doubt be similar to what will follow, with the team aiming to preempt future evolutions in a bid to eventually get ahead of the competition.
“We have adopted a reasonably aggressive approach to the rules,” Fallows explained to select media including RACER at the team’s launch this week. “We want to try and imagine where the designs would be in months and years time, so that we can almost sort of leapfrog the normal development routes.
“That’s one of the things that we looked at very early on in the design, was not only to make a step on the launch car, but to give ourselves a really solid platform for development. So there are things which are perhaps a bit less obvious on the curve, which are in there to allow us to push some of these development avenues that we believe may be fruitful in the future.
“So we have had an eye on where we think things are going to go. You have to have a little bit of crystal ball with these things, but having seen these rules for a couple of years now, we’ve started to get a feeling for where the really key key areas are and where they might be in the future.
“That’s what we’ve tried to sort of bake into the design, from the outset.”
Part of that long-term plan involves the building of a new engineering campus adjacent to its existing Silverstone factory, something that Fallows says will complement the already impressive foundation that exists within the team itself.
“We’ve definitely got facilities to be competitive, but you’re we have to be realistic, that we are not at the same level of some of the top teams,” he admits. “And I say that from the point of view of the facilities rather than the expertise – I think we were very strong in that regard.
“For example, I was very, very impressed with the general level of expertise we had in the team when I joined. So the key bits of the missing are the wind tunnel, which were clearly looking at. And we are very fortunate in using the Mercedes wind tunnel at the moment. But there are limitations to that, and there’s no substitute to having your own. The flexibility of testing the way you want. There are simulation facilities and so on that are also going to come online. Does that stop us progressing in the way that we want? Absolutely not. But are they key for our sustained performance gains in the future? Absolutely. And that’s what we need to push for.”
But while borrowing Mercedes’ wind tunnel as an interim solution does come with its own set of compromises, Fallows doesn’t feel the same way about the partnership that sees engines, gearboxes and rear suspension come in from the title-winning team.
“We’re very fortunate to have a partnership with Mercedes, to be able to use their expertise in our car,” he says. “Honestly, it hasn’t been a handicap for us at all having their parts at all. It’s been a big boost for us.
“They clearly do their own development, we have to be able to put our aerodynamic surfaces on their rear suspension as well, so it’s not entirely theirs from an aerodynamic point of view. So honestly, I don’t think it’s a handicap for us at all.”
Aston Martin launched its new car in full view of the public, bucking something of a trend that had been set in the first half of the car launch season that had many teams showing off show cars or renders. Although subtle changes are anticipated before the season begins in Bahrain next month, there’s no fear that the team might have given away too much too soon.
“We obviously have a very aggressive development program, so although we’re restricted by the cost cap, we do want to be continually putting parts on the car as quickly as we possibly can,” Fallows says. “But no, I think we were very keen that we launched a car that will shakedown and, with some very minor adjustments, perhaps with the one that ends up in Bahrain. That’s a key thing for us.”
“It’s important to show to our fans that we do want them to see the real car. It’s very difficult from a personal point of view, standing around, looking at last year’s car, say, well, there’s obviously clearly different stickers, different, you know, that, that was a big thing for us, and we’re very fortunate to have built up a very strong fan base over the last couple of years, and it’s really important to us that we gave them something as well as the media and our families.”
Another ingredient to Aston Martin’s long-term plan is new signing Fernando Alonso, who replaced the now-retired Sebastian Vettel over the winter. Alonso’s also spoken of a long-term ambition to help the team move forward, and his influence has been immediately felt during his first few weeks there.
“I found a very honest and transparent, experienced, fast racing driver,” says team principal Mike Krack. “It’s obviously early days, so we have to see how this develops, but we are really happy with this demanding attitude, it pushes us forward and we are prepared to do the extra mile because that;s the only the only way to move up the grid.
“So from that point of view all overall is very good so far. Obviously if the car is not what we wanted to be, then there will soon be some difficult conversations. But we will have to be prepared to have them because there’s no hiding and I think you cannot hide also in front of Fernando Alonso. I think we go open visor into the discussions. Be honest, be open, be transparent and I do not expect any issues then.”
Alonso debuted with the team at the tail end of last year, running in the post-season test in Abu Dhabi, but since then he’s continued to work closely with the team to negate the lack of pre-season running in the AMR23 – drivers will just have a day and a half apiece in the car before the first race – and hit the ground running.
“Obviously getting Fernando up to speed in our team with last year’s car in Abu Dhabi was very useful,” says performance director Tom McCullough. “We’ve just been down in Jerez doing 2024 Pirelli tire test, we’ve been doing a lot of simulator sessions in the new year, a lot of meetings with engineers, just to try to hit the ground running when we go testing but also more importantly when we go racing.
“Our typical end of year is to review what you’ve done well; what you could have done better. When you have a new driver yet, his input too. And that’s what we spent most of the winter doing. It’s actually still going on now, and they spent four hours in the simulator this morning ahead of everything else he was doing today, and that’s the kind of push that we’re getting from him. He’s massively motivated, pushing us all really hard because he wants to do really well, which is what we do.
Aston Martin is making a lot of good noises about its long-term plan, but they come with cautious optimism. As Krack points out, “Fernando said we have to keep our feet on the ground and I think this is very, very important for all of us. Take it step by step.
“Making predictions about wins or titles, I think it’s not the way we should act at the moment.”