Aston Martin has used the lessons of Haas to pull off a surprise Formula One turnaround in Brazil

Aston Martin has used the lessons of Haas to pull off a surprise Formula One turnaround in Brazil

These events saw three of the four starts from the pitlane as the team tried to learn more about the update package it debuted at Circuit of the Americas. To make life even more difficult, Fernando Alonso had to withdraw from both races due to floor damage.

However, a few days after the Mexican disappointment, the team showed speed and skill at work at Interlagos, where the green cars were only bettered by two men who between them have taken 15 pole positions out of 20 this season.

Lance Stroll took his best position of the year in third, while Alonso will start Sunday’s Grand Prix alongside him in fourth.

There’s still a long way to go this weekend, but Friday afternoon was a big boost for an organization that has been in the spotlight lately.

“We needed it,” Alonso said after the session. “I think the last two races we were a bit experimental. We were starting from the pitlane, all that kind of stuff.

“So we needed a good result here in Brazil, for both cars, to give us some hope in the team, and prove that we understand some things, and that we are quite competitive. This proves that we know what we are about.” I do it, and I’m happy about it.”

Team boss Mike Crack promised after the Mexican race that Aston would rely on data to decide what it races this weekend in Brazil, and not necessarily go ahead with the all-new package, which might just be to prove a point.

The engineers decided what would best meet the specific challenges of Interlagos, combining old and new elements.

There were encouraging signs when Stroll finished sixth in FP1.

Stroll and Alonso finished sixth and seventh in normal Q1 conditions, and then with rain threatening but the track still dry, the Spaniard reached fourth in Q2, while his teammate just managed 10th. However, Aston felt that only Red Bull and McLaren had faster cars.

The closure of the second row was a welcome reprieve for Aston after a difficult start to the final Formula 1 triple race of 2023.

Photography: Zach Mauger/Motorsports Images

The closure of the second row was a welcome reprieve for Aston after a difficult start to the final Formula 1 triple race of 2023.

Then came the third quarter, and it was all about timing and making the most of it as the rain started to fall. The Silverstone team and its drivers did the right thing.

“It’s a good result today, I think we can all be really happy with what we achieved,” Crack told Motorsport.com after the session.

“Today, we have to record everything in the framework of teamwork. From the analysis that went on, from choosing the package that we bring here, to the implementation, to the leadership, and then finally being there.”

“The margins are very tight here,” said performance director Tom McCullough. “But the team put our best car on track with everything we learned in recent events. And they executed every session. The execution, I was really impressed with it, to be honest.”

The key to Q3 was to get both cars down to the pit exit before everyone else in order to get a lap in as quickly as possible.

While it may seem like a no-brainer in retrospect, others preferred to exit a little later, thinking they would get to the right window before the deluge came.

Exiting later will also avoid the problem of losing tire temperature while waiting at the end of the parking lane for the light to turn green.

Inspired by what Kevin Magnussen did for Haas last year, when he first came out of the pits and took pole in changeable conditions, the strategy proved the right one for Aston despite tire temperature concerns.

For McCullough, who was Nico Hulkenberg’s engineer at Williams when the German started from pole at Interlagos on the drying track in 2010, the strategy was clear.

Getting out of the pits first was key for Magnussen in 2022

Photography: Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Getting out of the pits first was key for Magnussen in 2022

“Obviously having the first two cars in Q3 gives you the best chance of getting the lap in before the rain comes,” he said. “The conditions were tough. Because of that the tire temperature wasn’t right either. But you can’t have everything.

“We also got traffic on the lap because some of the guys who got out later were also getting in the way. But hey, second row of the grid, third and fourth, great result.

“It’s like in 2010 when Nico got first. You don’t know what the weather’s going to do here. So get yourself out there.

“We saw that with Kevin last year, you get yourself in front and it rains faster than the radar tells you, you just do a lap on the board.

“We were very disappointed with the laps, they weren’t great, and the drivers were struggling. But it’s a relative game, isn’t it? A lot of people behind them were spinning on the grass, and then it rained. So really cool.”

Krack agreed that Magnussen’s 2022 start was a good example of what to do when dark clouds appear in Brazil.

“We learned some lessons last year, with Kevin, you have to be the first to confront a weather threat like that,” he said.

“It’s true that you lose tire temperature. But if you’re a little bit ahead of the rain, and there’s someone else catching the rain, that’s a much bigger impact than the tire temperatures.

“So that’s the choice you have to make. The work on the pit wall today was really world class. And then the drivers performed fantastically well, but also in the garage, the performance was really strong.

As the light worsened as the storm raged, Stroll claimed his best grid position of the year

Photography: Andy Hone/Motorsport Images

As the light worsened as the storm raged, Stroll claimed his best grid position of the year

“And I think the drivers also had to implement that, and they did it very well. So I think it’s a big relief that we’re in better positions than we’ve been in recently.”

For the outing in particular, Sunday is very important now. Obviously it won’t be easy for the Canadian to hold on to third place – McLaren is very fast and the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz have fast cars – but he can go a long way to turn around his season.

And then there is Alonso, who has been frustrating over the past few weeks, now with another chance for a podium finish, and a chance to pick up points that could halt his slide down the championship standings.

“Hopefully it’s just a clean weekend and a good tomorrow in the sprint,” he said. “And then on Sunday, obviously we have a very good position to start the race. There probably won’t be any more rain. It was just today, the biggest day, so hopefully tomorrow will be a sunny day so people can enjoy it more.”

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