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How Aston Martin avoided finger pointing after 2022 F1 disaster

Aston Martin's spectacular resurgence has been one of Formula 1 2023's major storylines and team boss Mike Krack explains how the squad "kept it together" after a disastrous 2022 campaign.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, 3rd position, celebrates with his team in Parc Ferme

Aston Martin shocked F1 this year with its AMR23, the potential of which was rumoured to be huge even before a wheel had been turned at pre-season testing.

The whispers and murmurs up and down the paddock about its prowess were confirmed in Bahrain, with a rejuvenated Fernando Alonso taking the podium and an injured Lance Stroll sixth, the first of six rostrums for the former.

Aston's results amounted not just to an uptick in form, but a dramatic turnaround. It finished 2022 a lowly seventh in the championship, with outgoing Sebastian Vettel restricted to just 37 points in an anonymous farewell season, with Stroll stuck at just 18 points scored.

Owned by the hyper-ambitious Lawrence Stroll, the pressure started piling on the former Racing Point outfit as across the first half of 2022 Vettel and Stroll regularly struggled to make it out of Q1.

The Australian Grand Prix, where the pair qualified 18th and 20th respectively and Aston's only finisher Stroll nearly finished a lap down, proved a particular low point.

But rather than panicking or allowing a blame culture to seep through the walls of its Silverstone headquarters, team principal Krack explains how the squad kept its cool and embarked on a gradual programme to fight its way back in contention.

"The start was not great in 2022. I think after three races, we were the only team without the point, there was most of the pressure weighing on us," Krack said in an exclusive interview with Autosport.

"I remember very well on the flight from Melbourne, Tom [McCullough, performance director] and myself, we're sitting there saying, 'We need to keep this thing together', because if there is a high risk that the finger pointing starts and all that...

Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin F1 Team

Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

"And we managed not to do that. We managed to learn our lessons from it.

"It was important that first of all we had the new arrivals, we had Dan [Fallows] joining, we had Eric [Blandin] joining and the nice thing was it was always constructive and positive, it was always hard teamwork."

At its 2022 nadir mixing it up with Ferrari and Mercedes was just a distant dream, but the team gradually started chipping away at its problems, starting a significant in-season recovery programme that provided a prelude to its 2023 success and showed glimpses of its potential.

While it was too late to salvage Aston Martin's midfield ambitions, Vettel and Stroll started slashing the gap to pole near the end of the campaign, an early indication that the team was on the right track.

"We knew that we weren't going to do miracles over the course of a season, because of the intensity, because of cost cap and all these things," the Luxembourg native continued.

"But we said, 'Well, let's try to improve the car step by step', with whatever we can do and see where this will lead us.

"Then at the end of the year, I think by Abu Dhabi, we had made some substantial steps. There weren't enough points to gain to make big steps in the championship, so we ended up where we ended up.

"But we were quite happy at the end of the year, how we had worked ourselves out of it."

Podium: Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, third place Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin Racing

Podium: Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, third place Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Wholesale changes for the 2023 project, which amounted to a "95% different" car, fully paid off as the design team had reached the aggressive development targets it had set. 

Its 2023 challenger was soon dubbed the 'green Red Bull' as it followed a similar concept to the dominating Milton Keynes team, but that sold the Silverstone squad's design efforts rather short.

The car went straight to the podium in the hands of veteran Alonso, who took his first of six top-three finishes in Bahrain.

While that result was beyond Aston Martin's expectations, the actual performance of its car was exactly what it had in mind. It just didn't realise how competitive that would make it compared to its rivals.

"We did not overachieve," Krack stressed. "In the wind tunnel results week by week, we saw that we achieved the progress that we wanted to achieve.

"We were confident about our progress, but we did not know where this would put us, so we were trying to be realistic about how much progress we needed to achieve to make a substantial step.

"The Bahrain test was the first eye-opener; we really were at the top of the times all the time without really trying. Be it long runs, be it short runs, it always came easy.

"And then obviously you always go into your suspicion, 'Are we running lighter, and others are running heavy?' and all that. The moment of truth only comes when it's qualifying."

Aston's breakthrough podium in Bahrain was a huge reward for its hard-working Silverstone squad, with its management's composed approach appearing to pay off.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, leads Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, leads Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

In recent races, the going got tougher for Aston as Mercedes and a resurgent McLaren, and to a lesser extent Ferrari, made steps in the 2023 arms race to deny Aston any further podium berths.

Whether Aston took a wrong development turn or was subject to a flexi-wing clampdown by the FIA, Krack believes its recent struggles will prevent the team from getting carried away after its early successes were met with wild celebrations.

"You need to let people open the valve and just celebrate. You saw our guys, how they were celebrating, and we did also alike in the factory," he added.

"That is important because everybody does it with so much passion, you need to have these moments where you have the reward for all the hard work.

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"But then Monday [after Bahrain], we stuck our heads together again and say: 'OK, this is just one podium, we have a long way to go and move on from there.'

"We have had our first taste also in the races where it was not going so well, this is also helping to keep the people grounded.

"It's a balancing act between getting carried away and staying humble. We still have a long way to go."

The Aston Martin team cheer Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, 3rd position, over the line

The Aston Martin team cheer Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, 3rd position, over the line

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

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