New aerodynamic regulations hampered the gains the Canadian-owned team made last year, but recent results may be the turning point they were looking for
By Olivia Kairu
Lance Stroll’s 2021 season has been filled with highs and lows.
The Montreal-born driver was optimistic for the 2021 season, his first wearing Aston Martin colours, the rebranded version of the ‘Racing Point’ team he’s been part of since 2018.
When the season started, however, it became clear that the changes to the aerodynamic regulations had severely hampered the gains the outfit made in the previous season. Teammate Sebastian Vettel’s podium finish in Baku, on the bright side, may be the turning point the team was hoping for.
F1tota.ca has a look on the Canadian drivers’ season after the first six races of the season. He currently sits 13th in the standings with nine points.
Off to a good start – all things considered
Stroll qualified and finished in tenth place at the season-opener in Bahrain. He continued to score points in the second race of the season, the Emilia Romagna GP in Imola, finishing eighth despite facing brake and gearbox issues.
He demonstrated great skill in the wet conditions and made up two places on the grid after qualifying in P10, something he had already shown last year by claiming the pole position under rainy conditions at the 2020 Turkish GP.
But the point-finish streak quickly came to an end. He had a difficult qualifying session in Portimao securing only a P17 and finishing in P14 at the Portuguese GP. The heavy undulating demands of the Algarve circuit proved to be too taxing for the Aston Martin to handle due to the lack of downforce.
“After carefully analysing data from testing and this weekend, it is clear that the new-for-2021 aero regulations have impacted cars with a low-rake aero philosophy significantly more damagingly than cars with a high-rake aero philosophy,” said Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer after that race weekend.
“Specifically, the change in floor dimensions and profile at the rear of the cars has had a profound negative effect on the performance of cars with low-rake aero philosophy, such as our car and the Mercedes car.”
They continued to struggle in Barcelona, with Stroll finishing just outside of the points in 11th. Still, the Canadian had out-performed Vettel in three of the four races so far. The German remained with no points in the standings.
Then came the street circuits.
The Silverstone-based outfit managed to unleash newfound speed on the streets of Monaco. Stroll finished that race in eighth place, repeating his season-high result so far whereas Vettel scored a massive result by finishing in P5.
The team’s momentum carried on into the Azerbaijan GP, another street circuit. Aston Martin showed their hand at a very competitive package following a newly fitted Mercedes engine and power unit for the high speed, high power conditions of Baku.
Unfortunately for the Canadian driver, however, he failed to obtain a qualifying result after locking up his tyres right before the apex of turn 15 and causing damage to his front-right wheel. The unlucky spell carried on into the race, with Stroll’s left-rear tyre failing on the main straight causing him to spin into the wall and retire for the first time in the season.
Vettel, on the other hand, managed to secure a podium finish, being voted the driver of the day by the fans for the second race in a row.
“I am frustrated not to finish the race, but I am okay,” Stroll said after the race in Baku. “We were on course to score good points by running much longer before the pit stops and overcutting a lot of cars. I am not sure what happened to cause me to spin on the straight because there was no sign of issues, so we need to investigate. It has been a challenging weekend for me, but there are positives to take, especially our race pace.”
The accident was caused by a tire failure, and just like what happened with Max Verstappen some laps later when he was leading the race, Stroll couldn’t do much about it.
“I don’t know, we’re still looking into it, I felt like the rear just let go. I don’t know if it’s a puncture, suspension or debris, we’re still looking into it,” he explained. It’s a shame, it was looking quite good, we were overcutting the field. I think we had good potential for something big today.”
The best is yet to come
Szafnauer expressed his delight in the change of performance in Baku.
“A brilliant result for everyone in our team and the first-ever podium for Aston Martin in world championship Formula 1 history,” he said. “Both Lance and Sebastian showed today that we have the race pace to compete at the very front of the midfield, or better. That is what both of them will be aiming to do as the rest of the season unfolds.”
Although still too early to hope for some close fights with Ferrari or McLaren, the upturn seems to be underway in Aston Martin. This has yet to occur for Stroll, but looking at Vettel’s recent pair of performances, one can say the best is yet to come for the Canadian in the current season.