END OF YEAR REPORT: Aston Martin’s fast start faded but 2023 still brought plenty of positives
Aston Martin stole the headlines when the 2023 season began by leaping up the pecking order to emerge as Red Bull’s nearest challengers over the first handful of races. But after racking up podiums with new signing Fernando Alonso, the Silverstone team slipped back amid struggles to maximise their car developments and rivals making effective steps of their own. At the end of it all, we look back at the highs, lows and everything in between.
Fernando Alonso – 2nd in Monaco, Canada and the Netherlands
Alonso must have felt like he’d hit the jackpot after leaving Alpine and getting his hands on the Aston Martin during pre-season testing, with the much-improved AMR23 – overseen by former Red Bull technical chief Dan Fallows – marking a huge step forward.
The definition of hitting the ground running in his new environment, Alonso impressively finished on the podium in six of the opening eight races, including P2 results in Monaco – where he arguably could have won with a better strategic approach to late rainfall – and Canada.
However, only two more trophies followed over the second half of the season (another P2 coming at a rain-hit Zandvoort) as Aston Martin’s development plan failed to live up to expectations – some aerodynamic inefficiencies crept in and Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren got their seasons on track.
Alonso 19-3 Stroll
Alonso delivered one of the most dominant intra-team displays of the season and he started by out-qualifying team mate Lance Stroll in all bar four events, albeit with the side note that the Canadian spent the opening few rounds nursing wrist and foot injuries sustained in a cycling crash.
His standout one-lap performances included P2 starts in Saudi Arabia, Miami, Monaco and Canada, having held provisional pole on the streets of the Principality until the dying moments of a thrilling session when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen strung together a remarkable final sector.
Alonso 18-3 Stroll
It was more of the same in race trim, with Alonso only failing to score on three occasions en route to P4 in the drivers’ standings and finishing the season with almost three times as many points as Stroll, who had one DNS to his name following a heavy qualifying crash at the Singapore Grand Prix.
You could take your pick from Alonso’s eight podium finishes or four front-row starts for this section, but the result that started it all in Bahrain – and confirmed Aston Martin’s testing pace was genuine – triggered plenty of excitement throughout the paddock.
Alonso survived a bump from bandaged up team mate Stroll on the opening lap and later pulled off one of the overtakes of the campaign to beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to third place behind Red Bull pair Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
For all the highs experienced early in the season, the start of the final triple-header sequence in the United States and Mexico brought some of Aston Martin’s lowest moments, with their deficit to the front of the field seemingly bigger than ever.
Indeed, a double Q1 exit came at the Circuit of The Americas – with Alonso failing to start in the top 10 for the first time in 2023 – followed by an anonymous display at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez that brought the team’s only non-score when both cars started a race.
While their challenge dropped away as the season took hold, Aston Martin can still take plenty of encouragement from the development step they made in the first place, the trophies collected and the rise to fifth position in the constructors’ standings.
And, after the lows of Austin and Mexico City mentioned above, a mini late-season breakthrough appeared to be made in Brazil, where Alonso qualified fourth, finished third, then declared that “this shows we know what we’re doing”.
Even if there was an element of track characteristics at play, a run of three double points finishes to see out the year showed that both Alonso and Stroll were enjoying their time in the AMR23 again, with full focus now on transferring that to 2024.
As recently set out by Alonso, the target for next season is clear: improve the car’s narrow operating window, unlock some more top speed and find some consistency.