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Szafnauer: 2021 regulation changes hamper Aston Martin against rivals

Lance Stroll finished 10th in both, qualifying and race. Not what his Aston Martin team would have hoped for in their first F1 GP after return. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

The debut of the re-branded Aston Martin team went different from what team boss Szafnauer and Lawrence Stroll expected. Lance Stroll finished 10th, Vettel only 15th. According to Szafnauer, the team got hampered by the new regulation changes.

In Bahrain, Aston Martin looked slower than their rivals AlphaTauri, Ferrari or McLaren. Such as the Mercedes team, the squad significantly suffers from the regulation changes which were brought to Formula 1 for 2021. As Racing Point, the team adopted the low rake aerodynamic philosophy, which was a counterpart to the aero philosophy of Red Bull or AlphaTauri.

But while those two teams had a good start to the 2021 season, Aston Martin struggled a lot. Team boss Otmar Szafnauer is sure that the regulation changes hamper his team more than all others. “I think the rude awakening happened in qualifying when we realized after analyzing the data that the low rake cars were hampered significantly more by the regulation change,” he said.

Indeed, qualifying for the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix was a nightmare for the re-branded squad as Lance Stroll finished tenth and Sebastian Vettel couldn’t even reach Q2. Due to the scenario of Racing Point fighting for the win and podium in last years’ Bahrain GP and eventually scoring a double-podium at the Sakhir GP, Szafnauer is even more frustrated about the recent result and pointed out how the changes affected his team.

After qualifying, the expectations for the race switched in the British Racing Green-coloured team. Szafnauer explained: “[…] we expected a tough race but there are some positives to take out of it. On the soft and the medium tire, we looked pretty competitive in the midfield, catching some of our competitors. We struggled a little bit on the hard tire at the end.”

Still, the race pace gave him a bigger bright spot than qualifying did. He continued: “We’ve got to understand that, but in race conditions, we were a bit more competitive than we were over one lap. But compared to where we were just a few months ago here before the regulation change, we’ve got a lot of work to do.” However, both, Szafnauer and team owner Lawrence Stroll expected a different end to the first return of Aston Martin. Before the start of the season, both pleaded for the team fighting for wins and podiums – which was by far not the case at the first race of 2021.

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist but it was pointed out last year by the low rake runners that this would have a bigger effect than the high rake runners and we were correct,” said Szafnauer, addressing the regulation changes. Still, the Romanian-American is optimistic for the rest of the season: “[But] there’s more to come, we haven’t given up on this year and we have things in the tunnel and in R&D [Research and Development] and we’ll start bringing them to the track fairly soon.

“It’s just clawing back the deficit that was imposed on us by the FIA through their regulation change based on safety,” added Szafnauer. “From talking to other teams, they’ve made up the entire deficit, we haven’t, and that’s just because of the different aero philosophy that we run. So we’ll work hard to get that done in the next few races.”

However, the re-branded Aston Martin team seems to have a long and tough 2021 season ahead of them, which is not easier at all due to the regulation changes.

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