The formerly christened Racing Point F1 team — now renamed Aston Martin — ended the 2020 campaign in fourth position, only seven points short of third-placed McLaren. With such a solid result in mind, the Silverstone-based team aimed to be the best of the rest as its main goal for the 2021 season, by securing the third spot of the constructors championship.
However, the downforce cuts on the 2021 cars appeared to hit low rake cars — and notably Aston Martin — the hardest, causing the team’s form to slump compared to midfield rivals McLaren, Ferrari, Alpine and AlphaTauri.
Reassessing his team’s objectives, Otmar Szafnauer realistically targeted a fifth place by the end of the season, as the coveted third spot seems now out of reach.
“Unfortunately I think P3 is probably a step too far,” Szafnauer said according to Motorsport.com.
“We will fight hard in the midfield to see how high we can go. But yeah, we’d like to be in the top half by the end of the year.”
The Aston Martin team’s principal reflected on the struggles met by his crew, which were caused by a freeze in car’s development, paired with significant aerodynamic changes ahead of the 2022 season.
“None of us are happy with the situation we're in,” Szafnauer said.
“We’ve got to be realistic as to what we can do with a frozen car, a frozen rake and regulations that are significantly changing for 2022.”
For the Romanian-American manager, it is then all about maximising the results the team can get, considering the numerous restrictions it has to deal with, while also preparing a more fruitful 2022 campaign.
“So, we just have to be realistic to understand the situation we're in, and do the best we can with the car and the tools that we have.”
“For sure there's always pressure when you're not achieving where you thought you were going to achieve. But like I said, we all have to be realistic and do what we can, without compromising the 2022 programme.”
Asked if the difficult start to the year had allowed Aston Martin to switch more of its resources to 2022 earlier than expected, Szafnauer affirmed it had not changed its original plans.
“Not really, we had a plan that we haven’t deviated from,” Szafnauer said.
“But that was a plan set last year as to how far into this season we’re going to develop this year’s car. We’re still on course.”
Addressing once more the impact of the aerodynamic regulations introduced for 2021 that has cut cars’ rear downforce, Szafnauer was particularly outspoken in expressing his dissatisfaction, as he and his team were having discussions with the FIA to reach a "more equitable" in-season solution.
But the 56-years old eventually reconsidered his position, as he stated that his team has dropped the issue altogether.
"I think [the issue with the rule change] has been put to bed," Szfanauer told RacingNews365.com.
"We’ve had good conversation and discussion and tried to understand the process and how it transpired. There won’t be anything going forward."
Talking about the current controversy that animates the F1 paddock, Szafnauer offered his view, stating that passing the test could be not enough to be deemed legal in the case of the flexing wings.
"Everything bends, but our pillars and rear wing don’t bend nearly as much as the others," Szafnauer explained.
"The rule is not that if you pass the test you’re legal, that’s not what the rule is. We’re on the right side of the legality, we easily passed the test. Yes, we flex a bit because everything flexes, but our rear pillars and our rear wings are super stiff.”
Following the Spanish Grand Prix, The FIA wrote to F1 teams to inform them that two new tests will be adopted to check the flexibility of the rear wing by mid-June. Certain team bosses, notably Toto Wolff and Andreas Seidl — Mercedes and McLaren team principals — judged the FIA response to the issue unacceptable, as a month was enough time to design a compliant rear wing. In the same vein, the Aston Martin team boss asserted that designing a stiff rear wing could be done in the shortest of terms, as all the difficulty resides in making a wing that bends but remains compliant.
"To design something that flexes just the right amount and pass the test but still flex takes a big effort. But to design something that is stiff doesn’t take effort at all, and it can be done very, very quickly."