What made it stand out was the fact that Aston Martin’s top three came almost out of the blue for a team that had gone into the winter fairly under the radar.
However, in the space of a few months since seventh in last year’s constructors’ championship, it has made a leap forward to produce arguably the second-fastest racing car.
Such rapid progress is not the norm in F1, as teams are well aware that it can be difficult to move up just one or two places per year.
This is why Aston Martin’s leap forward has caught the attention of many of its rivals.
While they have to deal with someone else who did a better job, he provided an equally good case study in the elements required to succeed in F1.
So here are the key factors that have helped Aston Martin perform so well this year.
Rules and cost ceiling
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
The introduction of a cost cap in F1 was driven by two separate desires: a means of protecting teams from collapsing due to out-of-control spending and a way of helping to close the grid.
On the racing front, the budget cap has served its purpose of holding back the top teams as they have all had to limit their staffing levels and the amount of cash they can spend on car developments.
This was particularly good news for well-funded mid-tier teams like Aston Martin, who, operating close to the cost limit, had to sacrifice very little – even being able to shape their organizations to better meet the new constraints.
Technical director Dan Fallows says Aston Martin was one of those teams in the sweet spot area.
“We’re in a relatively fortunate position to be able to build our team as we approach the cost ceiling,” he said earlier this year.
“We’re below that, so we had an opportunity to look at how we’re going to increase our spending.
“We’ve been able to grow relatively organically while staying below the cost ceiling.
“I think from our perspective, that’s probably a benefit compared to a team that started well above the cost cap and had to look to cut back.”
Aston Martin Silverstone factory performance
Photo: Aston Martin Racing
While all teams are equal in terms of what they are allowed to spend, they are not all the same when it comes to their facilities.
One of the explanations for why Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes stayed so far ahead of the opposition last year is down to the legacy of infrastructure: years with better facilities and systems will continue to pay dividends for a while longer.
This is why teams with older wind tunnels and simulators, such as McLaren, have had to realize that they cannot compete in the long term unless they build new infrastructure.
Aston Martin came to the same conclusion, which is why its new factory, new sim and wind tunnel are all in the process of being completed right now.
But it has equally done what it can in the short term to address the shortfalls.
There has been huge investment at the Silverstone base in state-of-the-art equipment, and the agreement many years ago to use the Mercedes wind tunnel was essential to its progress.
After all, if a facility is good enough for a team that wins multiple championships, then it has to be decent.
As Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer said: “The Mercedes wind tunnel is very good. I don’t think they penalize you for sharing. If you were punished for sharing, people wouldn’t share.”
Fallows says that for now the Mercedes selection is pretty good.
“We’re very lucky to be using the Mercedes wind tunnel at the moment, but there are limitations to that,” he said.
“There’s no substitute for having your own, the flexibility to try as you please. There are simulation facilities and so on that will also be online.
“Does that stop us from progressing the way we want to? No way. But are they key for us as solid performance wins going forward? Absolutely, and that’s why we have to push.”
The right staff
Aston Martin’s garage
Photo: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
If there’s one thing that’s been evident since Aston Martin owner Laurens Stroll took charge of the team, it’s that he’s made a push to chase the best of everything.
In addition to investing heavily in facilities, he has also been extremely aggressive in making sure he has the right people to move the team forward.
That’s why Stroll left no stone unturned when it came to attracting the best people he can get – even if it meant digging deep into his own pockets and ruffling a few feathers at other teams.
As he said in his presentation: “Passion comes from excitement. When I’m excited about something I’m very passionate, and when I’m very passionate, I win!”
The end result is a number of high-profile signings including TD Fallows from Red Bull, deputy technical director Eric Blandin from Mercedes and ex-McLaren, Toro Rosso, Manor and Sauber man Luca Furbatto.
All of them have fantastic knowledge of exactly what effort and focus it takes to be successful at the front of F1.
The right mindset
Photo: Erik Junius
The right infrastructure and the right staff ultimately mean nothing if the team doesn’t have the right attitude.
And there is a clear sense within Aston Martin that it is ready to be a little disruptive and do things its own way in the bid to win.
They have never been a team that is married to convention. either when taking customer parts (like the Mercedes gearbox and rear suspension he’s currently buying) or aggressively pursuing ideas that others have thought of first.
Some opponents are caught up in the belief that the only way to win is to design and build every component yourself. but that’s not something Aston Martin is so confident about.
“Honestly, it wasn’t a disadvantage for us at all as we have their parts,” Fallows explained about using Mercedes parts.
“If anything, it was a big boost for us. They are clearly doing their own development. We have to be able to put our airfoils on their rear suspension as well, so it’s not quite theirs aerodynamically.”
Beyond that, there’s also a willingness to be open to the possibility that other teams have come up with better ideas than you.
When Aston Martin started 2022 with the wrong car concept, it wasted little time in changing its approach and switching to Red Bull’s solution from the Spanish Grand Prix.
And, as it’s pretty clear in F1 that Red Bull’s downwash design might be the best route to success in the era of ground effects, Aston Martin has committed to it and added its own style too – rather than thinking it could to find something better than a scratch.
It was telling at the team’s presentation earlier this year that Fallows spoke openly that one of tech genius Adrian Newey’s great strengths in F1 was not being closed off to other people’s ideas.
“I think one of the things I really liked about him is that he lacks any sort of technical arrogance about him,” he said.
“He’s very open to being told about things he’s prescribed or things he’s suggested that haven’t worked or there are better ideas out there. And that’s pretty much regardless of where those comments come from.
“I think that’s something I definitely try to bring to my own work. What I highly encourage the technical team to do is keep an open mind. Even if you have very clear visions of how you want to develop things or very clear ideas about the car, make sure you’re not technically arrogant about it.”
The Alonso factor
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, 3rd place, lifts his trophy on the podium
Photo: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
One factor that also cannot be ignored is the boost the team received from the signing of Fernando Alonso.
It was interesting to hear new Williams team boss James Vowles single out Alonso’s impact as his first explanation for Aston Martin’s leap into 2023.
“I think they’ve got a great driver that’s in the car,” he said.
There are two critical factors that are important to teams when it comes to capitalizing on the gains they will get from signing one of the grid’s undisputed best.
First, there’s the benefit of the automatic lap time coming on track, as the two-time world champion should be able to offer a few tenths of a second once the car hits the limit.
Then, on top of that, there is the belief and motivation that having someone like Alonso can produce for the organization itself.
Staff will be willing to go that extra mile and dig a little deeper, knowing that there is the prospect of ever greater rewards in orbit now.
It is clear that there is no single silver bullet that has been the key to Aston Martin making the leap that it has.
Instead, it’s a combination of easily explained factors that have combined to help it fast track momentum to the front of the grid.
And, as Alonso rightly pointed out after Bahrain, there’s nothing the team has done that rivals couldn’t pursue themselves.
“I think you have to have the vision and ambition of Lawrence Stroll, or our leadership and our management, because the opportunities are there for everybody,” he said.
“But it seems only one team is willing to do whatever it takes to win. And I’m proud to be a part of this organization.”