Sergio Perez accused Aston Martin of having built a Red Bull car after Sunday’s F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain. So, what’s really making Aston Martin’s AMR23 car so fast?
In the five previous seasons of the Racing Point/Aston Martin F1 team’s modern existence, the team finished seventh in the Formula 1 Constructor’s Championship in four of them. The one year in which it didn’t was the truncated 2020 season, when BWT Racing Point finished fourth in the final season before one Sergio Perez departed for Red Bull Racing.
In Sunday’s 2023 F1 season opener in Bahrain, Red Bull ultimately took the top two spots on the podium with Perez finishing behind two-time defending driver’s champion Max Verstappen. It was Aston Martin debutante Fernando Alonso who finished an impressive third, however, with teammate Lance Stroll finishing an encouragingly strong sixth. It marked the constructor’s first podium since Perez himself back when the team was known as Force India.
So, it was rather eye-opening when Checo cheekily alluded to certain design choices showcased by Aston Martin’s AMR23 car in the post-race press conference.
As long as there have been F1 races with some surprising results, there have been accusations of fast cars being curiously similar to those of other constructors. As famously documented in Netflix docuseries Drive To Survive during the 2020 campaign, Racing Point was docked 15 Constructors’ Championship points and fined €400,000 when an FIA investigation found that it copied Mercedes’ 2019 rear brake ducts in the car Lewis Hamilton won the driver’s title in as part of the German manufacturer’s dynastic run. However, the FIA ruled that Racing Point didn’t need to change the car, drawing appeals and protests from Renault, McLaren, and Ferrari at the time.
Right on cue, Aston Martin technical director Dan Fallows, now in his second year with the team, used to serve in the same capacity at Red Bull.
With all this in mind, the resemblance in 2023 car design was strong enough for others besides Checo to notice, too:
- Red Bull team principal Christian Horner: “They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery and it’s good to see the old car going so well… It’s flattering to see the resemblance of that car to ours so it was great to see the three of them on the podium.”
- Former F1 driver and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko: “If you compare the cars, you can see that the Aston Martin is most similar to Red Bull… That certainly has its reasons. It wasn’t just [Dan] Fallows who went to Aston Martin, but also a few other people, and obviously, they have a good memory.”
Is it just me, or does it sound like Herr Marko isn’t exactly overjoyed about how Fallows and Co. have managed to put the pieces together this season?
Yes, there’s already a history of the Racing Point/Aston Martin team perhaps taking certain liberties in incorporating elements from previous championship cars into their next products, but assertions from Perez, Horner, and Marko that Aston Martin have a Red Bull car are ultimately complicated by the teams’ different power units: Aston Martin runs on a Mercedes engine, while Red Bull runs a Red Bull Powertrain built on a foundation of Honda technology.
Are there certain design elements that the team could have been taken from past Red Bull designs to optimize this year’s Aston Martin F1 car? Most likely. Is it the reason Lawrence Stroll’s boys had their most successful Grand Prix performance in quite a long time? Let’s just say that if Aston Martin continues to run well in Saudi Arabia on March 19 and beyond, Sunday won’t be the only time it will have accused of playing a game of copycat in order to fly up the F1 standings.
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