It is a query that even the staff itself cannot but reply, regardless of the instance of Mercedes offering some encouragement.
This was presupposed to be the 12 months when, boosted by additional monetary sources and the arrival of Sebastian Vettel, the Silverstone staff broke away from the midfield pack. As an alternative, the staff has discovered itself in the direction of the again of that group.
In Bahrain, Lance Stroll simply scraped into Q3 and scored a degree with 10th place, whereas Vettel had a disastrous weekend that included two penalties and ended with a lowly 15th place.
Group principal Otmar Szafnauer has made no secret of the foundation explanation for the issues – he is adamant that the aero tweaks made by the FIA to trim downforce ranges for 2021 have deprived the 2 low-rake groups, Aston and Mercedes, greater than anybody else. And making up that loss is not going to be the work of the second.
“After analysing the information the low-rake vehicles had been hampered considerably extra by the regulation change, so we anticipated a tricky race,” he rued in Bahrain.
Mercedes seems to have gotten a deal with on its points, and within the area of lower than two weeks went from a dire check in Bahrain to a race victory on the similar venue.
Nonetheless, there was a fairly a little bit of Lewis Hamilton magic in that efficiency, and it is evident to all that the Purple Bull is now the quicker automotive.
Photograph by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
Aston has the potential to enhance – however even with the finances cap impacting its greater rivals extra, the staff has fewer sources to name upon than Mercedes.
And crucially like all the opposite groups, it additionally has to concentrate on its 2022 programme. The very last thing technical director Andrew Inexperienced and his males wanted was to modify additional R&D effort again to fixing elementary points with the present automotive.
It is value recalling how the staff discovered itself on this scenario. Heading into the 2020 season, the then-Racing Level outfit determined to modify from excessive to low-rake, for a wide range of causes.
Firstly and most clearly, low-rake contributed to Mercedes having the quickest automotive.
Secondly, the Mercedes gearbox and suspension pick-up factors had been optimised round low-rake, so it was logical for Racing Level to lastly observe the route chosen by its provider.
And thirdly, taking a brief lower to 2020 efficiency by borrowing a confirmed philosophy was presupposed to liberate R&D sources for the brand new guidelines – then resulting from be launched in 2021.
If it did not work, then solely the 2020 season would have been wasted, and the staff would have a flying begin on the brand new regs.
“The inspiration is from the quickest automotive from final 12 months,” Inexperienced instructed Autosport on the RP20’s first check, the place the similarity to the earlier 12 months’s Mercedes W10 turned obvious.
“That is the place our inspiration got here from. It is – why would not we? We had a automotive that was operating round seventh within the championship. And we have yet one more 12 months of those rules, and the event that we had been seeing with the excessive rake automotive to me simply wasn’t going to ship, and it was value taking a danger.
Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR21, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR21
Photograph by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
“And it’s a huge danger. We tore up what we did earlier than, contemporary piece of paper, the place are we going to start out? Properly, you are not going to start out trying on the slowest automotive on the grid are you? You are going to begin trying on the quickest automotive, and that is the place we began.
“If it really works, it really works. If it would not, we have misplaced one 12 months, however I do not assume we might have misplaced something relative to not doing it. The draw back of not doing it was a lot larger.”
It did work, as demonstrated by the truth that the staff gained a race and took a pole. The final word championship place of fourth was compromised by too many retirements and the brake duct copying factors penalty, and was not absolutely consultant.
The brand new guidelines had been postponed to 2022, and thus the low-rake idea needed to do one other 12 months with the re-named Aston staff. That might have labored out fantastic had the aero guidelines not been modified, in two steps.
It is attention-grabbing to recall that after the primary, confirmed by the FIA in June, Inexperienced already realised that it represented a giant change.
As a result of shutdown, F1 groups weren’t in a position to run their very own simulations through the discussions.
“After we [the FIA technical working group] selected the change we weren’t permit to do any simulations on a present automotive, the simulations had been coming from F1 with their modelling,” Inexperienced mentioned in June.
“It wasn’t till we received again from the break and began to take a look at it we realised how huge a change it was.”
A number of weeks later, the FIA added three extra aero adjustments to create a bundle, supposedly including as much as a 10% downforce lower. Nonetheless later, Pirelli created a brand new 2021 building, with wider fronts that had an aero affect.
By then, it had turn out to be obvious at Racing Level that low-rake vehicles would certainly take extra of successful than high-rake rivals.
Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR21, is returned to the storage
Photograph by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
“I am not a conspiracy theorist,” mentioned Szafnauer after the Bahrain race. “But it surely was identified final 12 months by the low-rake runners, that this may have a much bigger impact than on the high-rake runners. And we had been appropriate. On the time the rules had been being made this was identified.”
He additionally burdened that these rule adjustments didn’t get unanimous help.
“No. Primary, there was by no means a vote. Quantity two, there was an indicative vote.
“In order that was simply on the technical below committee [working group], that each one the technical administrators needed to have an indicative vote, and three groups voted in opposition to it.
“You have to bear in mind solely two groups have a low-rake idea. So even one of many high-rake groups voted in opposition to it. So nowhere close to unanimity. And it would not have even handed on the eight out of 10 rule. As a result of three voted in opposition to.”
What the staff cannot do is change its fundamental philosophy again to high-rake, even it was in a position to make such a dedication when it comes to bringing new elements by way of the system.
“Worse than that for the primary time ever that I can bear in mind in my 24 years of the game we have needed to homologate the suspension,” mentioned Szafnauer.
“You might solely change it if you happen to truly used your tokens on suspension. So even when we wished to run 150mm rear experience top, we won’t.”
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR21
Photograph by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
As famous earlier, the positive aspects made by Mercedes for the reason that Bahrain check supplied some encouragement – a low-rake automotive might be improved.
The issue is that Aston Martin desires to be waiting for 2022 now, and never utilizing scarce sources for firefighting points with the present automotive.
Having completed fourth in final 12 months’s championship below the brand new aero testing guidelines, the staff does at the very least have extra wind tunnel hours and CFD utilization than the groups that completed forward, however that is of little consolation.
What ought to have been a bonus for preparations for 2022 may now simply be swallowed up.
It is an unlucky set of circumstances given that a driving power behind the unique swap to low-rake was to liberate useful resource for the brand new rules.
Szafnauer says that Aston would not but know when it will probably make an entire swap of focus to 2022, as it will probably’t afford to be left behind.
“Properly, it is a actually good query,” he mentioned. “If I knew I might let you know, however I do not know, sadly.
“So the trade-off needs to be how way more can we acquire this 12 months at what expense for subsequent 12 months? That is actually, actually laborious to foretell. And so presently, we will hold getting in parallel.”