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Why is Stroll having such a "rough" time with Aston Martin's 2023 F1 car

Lance Stroll's garage antics and remarkable seven-word interview with Formula 1 after his Qatar Grand Prix Q1 exit said everything about the level of anguish he is feeling right now.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin F1 Team

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin F1 Team

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

In a season where Aston Martin has produced a car worthy of podium finishes, Stroll's best result has been a fourth place, which he took in the Australian GP.

But it's a year that has been characterised more by the depth of his struggles, as Qatar proved to be his fourth consecutive Q1 exit.

While Stroll said on Friday he didn't know why he was struggling so much right now, a deeper dive into the campaign points to a combination of circumstances that have worked against him, some of which are outside his control, but some of which are not.

"It's been a rough season since kind of the first few races," said Stroll earlier in the Qatar weekend. "It's been difficult.

"A lot of stuff has happened - reliability issues and unfortunate circumstances. And also just the speed at times has been not really there."

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Asked if there were common themes to his troubles and elements that were down to him, he said: "There's definitely things in my control, too. I feel like that there's things I can work on, and improve to be faster.

"But there's also been a huge amount of, I guess, just kind of unfortunate circumstances when I look throughout the year.

"From Saudi running in P4 and having an engine problem there. From having a good weekend in Austria to getting a pitstop at exactly the virtual safety car time.

"In Canada, putting on wrong tyres in qualifying. Instead of a new set, we accidentally put on an old set of intermediates, which makes a huge difference in the end results.

"Then just multiple things like that…just things happening and missing out on opportunities to score big points. Sometimes it's like that.

"But there's definitely things I can improve on, and things we can improve on as a group to be stronger."

On-the-nose car

One aspect that looks to be more and more obvious is that Stroll does not appear as comfortable with the way that the handling direction of the ARM23 F1 car has shifted over the course of the season.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Watching onboard footage of it in action, it is clear that it has become very on the nose, which manifests itself in a looser rear end than Stroll ideally likes to deal with. It is something that Fernando Alonso's unique driving style is well able to manage.

This characteristic change, in a series where driver confidence in what the car does can manifest itself in a good chunk of laptime, could perhaps explain why Stroll's struggles have grown as Aston Martin itself has lost ground on rivals.

Asked if there were characteristics of the car that didn't suit him now, Stroll said: "Yeah, there's things for sure. There's always things in every car, I mean, but I think when the car has been really good this year, I've been really happy with it. And it's just recently it's been a bit more challenging."

Some of the explanation for the shift comes from the development 'side effects' that the team has widely talked about as hitting its overall form against other teams.

Stroll thinks that as well as the upgrade path not delivering enough performance, it also changed the feel of the car – making him feel less comfortable than before.

"I think we took some directions with philosophy, of bringing upgrades aerodynamically, that I don't think made us go the step forward that we were hoping for," he said.

"So we're trying to understand that and bring some stuff to the car in the season now to fix that and help the characteristic that we had earlier in the season, where the car was more predictable, and easier to drive, and more forgiving. I think we've lost some of that.

"It's just about understanding why. In theory, you want to make the car go faster, but I think we might have added overall downforce but made the car trickier to drive.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin F1 Team

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

"So I think the big goal now is to get back to kind of that place at the beginning of the year, where I felt like we had a car that was just easier to drive, behaving better."

Adding to Stroll's woes too is the fact that two tyre changes for this year – stronger new fronts from the start of the campaign and then different rears from the British GP – moved the cars even further away from a neutral/understeer balance.

"The Silverstone tyre became stiffer on the rear, so that kind of made everything more oversteer," added Stroll. "It's definitely more on the nose than last year, the tyre."

But while Stroll is literally almost lost for words right now about where things are at, he has talked about some progress coming in the next few weeks - which perhaps is a light at the end of the tunnel.

"We have some stuff in the pipeline and we have some ideas for that," he said. "Going forward, the next few weekends, we have some bits coming to try to help that."

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