Aston Martin needs to improve its qualifying pace if it wants to improve on ninth place in the 2022 Formula 1 constructors’ championship.
And team principal Mike Krack believes the grid advantage he gained from other teams’ penalties at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix is the strongest evidence yet of what Aston Martin could achieve in a race if he qualified better.
He is currently five points behind AlphaTauri with Haas a further five points ahead in seventh place.
Krack argues that Aston Martin needs stronger starting positions if it is to capitalize on its stronger race pace to score significant points.
Aston Martin has finished with 10 points so far this season, more than the seven earned by AlphaTauri and Haas.
But as these have largely been minor points finishes, with Sebastian Vettel’s sixth place in Baku backed by two eighth places, one ninth place and six 10th places, this is not enough to make up ground.
The AMR22 has been only the ninth fastest car on average based on single lap pace this year and its drivers have only escaped Q1 10 times in a combined 28 attempts this year.
But Krack believes Vettel’s eighth-place finish at Spa, which was assisted by starting 10th thanks to penalties despite only setting the 16th-fastest time in qualifying, is proof of what’s possible when you start. in a better position.
“We knew it was going to be difficult to keep fast cars like Max at bay. [Verstappen] or Carlos [Leclerc]there was no point in dreaming when we started the race,” Krack said.
“We had a little opportunity to maybe stay in front of an Alpine [Esteban Ocon] but how realistic that is, we’ll never know because I’m not sure they’ve done all the pacing they could do.
“When you see our pace in qualifying, it’s another good recovery. But we have to start later.”
Vettel ran fifth in the opening stages of the Belgian Grand Prix but was soon overtaken by Verstappen and then jumped by Leclerc. He raced ahead of Ocon for the first two runs, but the Alpine driver passed him moments after passing Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri.
While Vettel’s race was also helped by getting ahead of Alex Albon early on, with the Williams driver acting as a rolling obstacle in the race that kept Lance Stroll, McLaren drivers Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda behind. Krack still took eighth place from Vettel. as evidence of what Aston Martin can do when it starts higher.
While Vettel was eliminated in Q1, with Stroll setting the 14th fastest time in Q2, but being overtaken by Vettel on the opening lap, Krack believes there was more potential in the car.
“We were a little better. [than we looked] because we had sebastian [missing out by] two thousand in a lap that was not ideal on his part, “said Krack. “So I think we had the potential to be in Q2 with both cars.
“Then maybe you have another race or two races where maybe also others do something and you start in a different position.
“And if you start three positions higher, races can often go a different way and you rack up points for fifth, sixth, seventh instead of always 10th and 11th.
“The score is too low to make a step in the constructors category, we have to work hard on our qualifying pace.”
Aston Martin has struggled with grip inconsistency during this year’s qualifying sessions, possibly due to difficulties getting the Pirelli tires into the correct window reliably. Speaking after Spa qualifying, Stroll highlighted this trait but said the team had not gotten to the bottom of the reasons.
Vettel, who has produced Aston Martin’s best results this year, agrees with Krack that the car is quick enough to stay in order if it can qualify better.
He even felt that beating Ocon to seventh place was possible in Belgium, especially if he had pitted earlier and prevented Ocon from gaining time via a low cut. This would have reduced Ocon’s chances of pulling off his double overtaking of Gasly and Vettel, which happened moments after the Aston Martin passed the AlphaTauri.
“It could have been one more position, it was a bit embarrassing with Esteban,” Vettel said.
“It was good to see if we get a decent grid position and a good first lap, we can survive and hang on. We had better pace than the Alpines on very old tyres. Their car is faster, so it was difficult to keep them behind, but we managed with one for most of the race, very close to the other.
“Strategy-wise, maybe we could have gone in a bit earlier, but in hindsight it’s always easy.”