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Why Aston Martin faces same McLaren hurdle in its push to the front in F1

The aggressive step that Aston Martin has made with its new Formula 1 car, allied to the arrival of Fernando Alonso, has left competitors mindful of its potential.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23

Indeed, the narrative surrounding the Silverstone-based squad these days is more about when it will start winning in F1, rather than if.

With its new star driver, the fruits of its recruitment drive paying off with its AMR23 design, a new factory almost finished, and the support of huge investment from Lawrence Stroll, all the right elements appear to be falling into place for that push towards the front.

As Alonso himself remarked at last week's launch: "There is something going on in this team that makes things special.

"You need the investment, and you need the talent in Formula 1. We have the investment, we have the facilities, and we have the talent. So it's just a matter of time."

But, while there is a quiet sense of optimism at Silverstone about its chances of moving forward in 2023 following a pretty difficult 2022 campaign, there is equally some realism about the journey ahead.

Just as midfield rival McLaren has accepted that it cannot hope to challenge the top three teams until it starts reaping the benefits of a new wind tunnel and simulator, so too is Aston Martin mindful of its own infrastructure limitations.

New technical director Dan Fallows, who has plenty of experience in what is needed to win world championships following his many years at Red Bull, is encouraged by a lot of the elements he has found at Aston Martin.

Yet, with the top teams still benefitting from infrastructure legacies built up when there was no cost cap, there remain gaps to them that simply cannot be closed from one winter to the next.

"We've definitely got the facilities to be competitive," said Fallows. "But we have to be realistic that we are not at the same level as some of the top teams, and I say that from the point of view of the facilities rather than the expertise. I think we're very strong in that regard.

"For example, I was very impressed with the general level of expertise we had in the team when I joined.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23

"The key bits that are missing are the wind tunnel, which we're clearly looking at. We are very fortunate in using the Mercedes wind tunnel at the moment. But there are limitations to that.

"There's no substitute to having your own, and the flexibility of testing the way you want. There are simulation facilities and so on that are also going to come online.

"Does that stop us progressing in the way that we want? Absolutely not. But are they key for sustained performance gains in the future? Absolutely, and that's what we need to push for."

Aston Martin estimates that the biggest elements of its infrastructure upgrade, including its wind tunnel and simulator, will be ready by the end of the 2024 season.

That means the potential to influence upgrades for the 2025 car before the technology can help deliver all its input into its 2026 challenger.

Three seasons away may seem like an age, but time flies by very quickly in F1. And Aston Martin chiefs are clear that the most important thing right now is making progress year on year, not just sitting back and waiting for better times in the long term.

Fallows added: "We're realistic about how strong our competitors are and, we've said before, we have a great deal of respect for our competitors. They're very, very strong.

"But, having said that, it's clearly our goal to keep moving forward. If we can leapfrog some of these places in the future, then we'll absolutely be delighted with that.

"The main thing from our point of view is to show that steady year-on-year progression, to show this project is moving forward in the right way."

Aston Martin Silverstone factory tour

Aston Martin Silverstone factory tour

Photo by: Dom Romney / Motorsport Images

If good results were not possible until 2026, then you would doubt that someone like Alonso would have committed to the project. He sees scope, however, for a march forward.

Yes, he is aware that not everything is in place right now, but he clearly believes that there is enough of it to make a difference straight away.

"On the new factory, new wind tunnel, for sure it will take time," the two-time world champion conceded. "This is more a long-term benefit that you will see.

"But in the short term, you will see also with the new car, that there are other things that are already visible on how the team can grow up quickly. So, let's see, there are a lot of things right.

"In Formula 1, there are no shortcuts. You need the investment, and you need the talent in the factory. This project is very ambitious at the moment and has a lot of things to prove, but a lot of things to go through in the next few years.

"I know that my time is not unlimited behind the wheel, but I will try to make this process as short as possible and help the team as much as they can."

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