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Aston Martin F1 qualifying strength remains despite race focus

Aston Martin says its Formula 1 qualifying prowess has remained in place as a by-product of trying to improve its race day performance rather than a deliberate effort.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR24

Aston Martin has been fifth in F1 2024's pecking order so far both in terms of race performance and results, heading to Miami 12 points behind fourth-placed Mercedes.

But while it has struggled to match the likes of Ferrari and McLaren over a race distance, the Silverstone team's qualifying performances have bucked that trend.

In the hands of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, Aston's AMR24 has qualified on the second or third row of the grid four out of five times, only to fall back over a race distance.

Alonso said he took his car's surprising one-lap performance as a bonus rather than as a sign something is amiss with its longer-run pace in China, saying his team "can’t say sorry for being too fast in qualifying, so let's take it.”

According to the squad's performance director Tom McCullough, the team's continuing discrepancy between qualifying and race pace is a key point to address, with the team fully focused on getting its car in the best possible window for Sundays.

"Every race, we've had the same pattern. The margins in qualifying are very, very small between several teams, more than just the top five teams," McCullough said.

"Getting the most out of the car, the tyres, the understanding, for sure that's been the strength of our car this year and then in the race.

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

"We're trying everything on our side to prepare the car as well for racing as possible. We're not trying to just set up for qualifying and ignore racing.

"The car developments, the whole understanding of how to optimise the car and the tyres is focused on that. There are some teams that did a better job than us at the moment and we've got to keep working hard on that."

McCullough added that rather than a deliberate strategy, the better one-lap performance is the by-product of some of the car changes it has made, such as a more efficient DRS system. Changes that were mainly intended to result in a better-performing car in race trim.

"Through the development phase, you've got some key decisions to make.," he explained.

"The points are always on the Sunday, we don't develop a car for qualifying. There are some elements that when you develop a car to be strong.

"The efficiency of the DRS switch will also help qualifying and qualifying is important, if you can get into free air and run your own race, then you are much better than being in dirty air and losing a load of points of downforce.

"A lot of the decisions we made throughout last year and into this year's car have helped qualifying a bit, but our main focus in the way we develop the car is to be a fast race car."

Watch: F1 2024 Miami Grand Prix Preview - Everything You Need to Know

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