The Aston Martin Formula 1 team is now “pretty satisfied that all the correct steps were followed” regarding the aerodynamic rule changes it feels unfairly hurt by in 2021.
Aston Martin’s low-rake AMR21 and the Mercedes W12 started the new season with the biggest loss of performance relative to 2020 in Bahrain, prompting the early conclusion that lower-rake cars have been hit harder by the new rules that reduced downforce at the rear.
However, at Imola, while Mercedes was much slower than in 2020 Aston Martin’s performance was similar to last year – the sixth-fastest car – and it was one of only four teams to actually have a faster theoretical best qualifying time than 2020.
2021 ideal Imola qualifying laps vs 2020
That may simply indicate the team underperformed at Imola in 2020 and there is no doubt that overall Mercedes and Aston Martin have suffered to a greater extent because of the changes.
During the Imola event, Aston Martin indicated it would raise the issue with governing body the FIA and seek an in-season rule change to help the cars it believes have been unfairly affected.
Its position was labelled “naive” by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner given Aston Martin, like the other teams, approved the rule changes for 2021.
Aston Martin team principal and CEO Otmar Szafnauer said at the end of the weekend that the team had a “couple of meetings with the FIA” at Imola.
“We’re at this point pretty satisfied that all the correct steps were followed,” he said.
“We’re still in discussions. We’re just trying to discover what all the steps were to make sure that it was done properly and equitably.
“That’s the reason for the discussion.”
Szafnauer would not expand on the motivation for the ongoing discussion beyond stating it was “just have to have a good understanding of the entire process and be happy that the process is equitable”.
He also did not say what Aston Martin was now satisfied with compared to before, adding: “We’re still discussing with the FIA. I’ll be able to answer that question probably in three, four days’ time.”
The official reason for the rule changes is that they were necessary on safety grounds as the 2020 cars were being carried over to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Pirelli was unable to properly develop a new tyre to match the team’s aerodynamic development.
In response, teams worked with F1 and the FIA to cut around 10% of the downforce at the rear of the car through a quartet of changes.
Later in the season, Pirelli announced it would introduce a revised construction for 2021 after all, to help make the tyre more robust after early-season failures but also to enable teams to run lower tyre pressures.
Pirelli insists it was always possible that the rule changes would be complemented by an improved tyre but there was no guarantee the revised construction could be achieved for 2021.
There have been suggestions that there was a competitive motivation for the changes as well, given Mercedes has won the last seven drivers’ and constructors’ championships and there were suspicions that the new rules would hurt low-rake cars more.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he understood why Aston Martin would feel aggrieved if that were the case because the team has ended up “collateral damage”.
“How the rules have fallen into place last year, one can always question what the motivation was,” said Wolff, who is close with Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll.
“There’s certainly the right to review and look at things and discuss them with the FIA, find out what has actually happened and how have things happened.
“That’s why I respect Aston Martin’s enquiry and the whole thing and maybe things were targeted at us and they are collateral damage.”