2022 Performance Review: Aston Martin
Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Simran Kanthi
After a sedate first season for Aston Martin in 2021, one that saw them finish a distant seventh, 2022 proved to be tougher for the Silverstone-based outfit. Coming into the season, plenty of restructuring took place across the team. Mike Krack was appointed as the new team principal, replacing the departing Otmar Szaufnauer. Aston Martin also made several high-profile signings, in the form of Martin Whitmarsh (former McLaren team principal) as Chief Executive Officer, Dan Fallows (former Head of Aerodynamics at Red Bull) as Technical Director, and promoting Andrew Green to Chief Technical Officer. Luca Furbatto, hired from Alfa Romeo, assumed the role of Engineering Director. Performance Engineering Director Tom McCullough saw his role evolve into the Performance Director. Construction of the team's factory was in full swing and is expected to be completed sometime next year. Despite the dawn of a new era of Formula One, expectations for Aston Martin were realistic, as the team aimed at improving on their performance from 2021 rather than making a jump to the top of the midfield.
Coming to their performance on the track, Aston Martin endured a torrid start to their 2022 F1 season. After three scoreless rounds, the team got off the mark in Round Four at Imola, Sebastian Vettel securing eighth and Lance Stroll tenth. With qualifying not being the strength of the team, following a combined 24 eliminations in Q1 across the season, Aston Martin aimed to maximise the race pace of the car, aiming to string together consistent points finishes. The British Racing Green cars then became a familiar sight in the points during 2022, with points scores in 15 races across the season. Despite a slow start, Aston Martin put in a charge towards the end, in an attempt to snatch sixth in the standings from Alfa Romeo, only losing on countback to the Swiss team. The Silverstone-based outfit scored a total of 55 points across 2022, emulating their seventh place in the constructors' standings from 2021. While Vettel departed Aston Martin after two solid seasons, the team has been bolstered by the signing of two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso from Alpine.
In other news, Aston Martin also announced the signing of Formula 2 Champion Felipe Drugovich as part of their newly established driver development programme.
While Sebastian Vettel got acquainted with his new surroundings in 2021, it was in 2022 that we really got to see the German's potential for Aston Martin. Vettel's improved consistency and ability to outperform his inferior machinery on multiple occasions earned him crucial points and plaudits from the F1 community on each instance. Vettel's experience of adapting to new-spec cars came to the fore, as he outshone teammate Lance Stroll consistently in qualifying and the races. Eighth in Imola, sixth in Baku, another sixth place in Suzuka, a gutsy comeback drive to eighth in Austin, and a point in his final race in the sport at Abu Dhabi, were some of the best performances from the veteran, who also entered his 300th race weekend at Abu Dhabi. He was driving at his best towards the latter stages of the season, giving the fans a glimpse of his skill and prowess for one last time before hanging up his racing boots, proving he was still one of the best in the sport.
Rating - 8/10
Best race - Japanese GP; Making his love for the challenging Suzuka circuit no secret, Vettel put in scintillating laps to make it into Q3, securing a lofty ninth in qualifying. On race day, despite a spin at the start that dropped him to last, Vettel recovered to sixth following an early stop for intermediates and just held off Fernando Alonso for sixth in a photo finish.
Following a rather consistent 2021 season, when he finished in the lower points positions on numerous occasions, 2022 proved to be much tougher for Lance Stroll. Coming into the new era, the Canadian would have expected himself to be closer to his teammate Vettel on track more often, in both drivers' second season in the team. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case for Stroll. While there were peaks later in the season in the form of his best finish of sixth at Singapore, qualifying seventh for the US GP, and an eighth place in the finale at Abu Dhabi, Stroll never matched these highs across the season. Six tenth-place finishes were his only points scores apart from Singapore and Abu Dhabi, and he made it to Q3 only thrice across the season. Stroll was involved in many incidents across qualifying and races during the season, most notably his crash with future teammate Alonso at Austin, which sent the Spaniard airborne and pushing teammate Vettel onto the grass during the sprint race at Brazil.
Rating - 5.5/10
Best race - Singapore GP; While a risky strategy to get into Q3 on slicks didn’t pay off, Stroll started 11th on the grid for the race. During a wet/dry race, the Canadian kept his cool and his car out of the barriers, on a day when many came a cropper, to finish sixth in conditions that suited his strengths.
Sebastian Vettel didn't have it easy in the last few years of his Formula One career, even after a switch to the promising Racing Point team, renamed Aston Martin in 2021. A lacklustre season in 2021 with no highlights bar a podium finish, would've been forgotten in what was, hopefully, a turnaround year for the team. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case and Vettel, who missed the first two races of the year due to Covid, had a hard time adapting to the car in Australia but managed to score some points in the next round in Imola. From there, his performances wildly varied, mostly due to the car performance doing the same. By the second half of the year, both Aston Martin and Vettel seemed to be in resurgent form, with the German finding his way in the top 10, semi-consistently, in Singapore, Japan, Austin, and Abu Dhabi, ending what would be the final race of his career in tenth. Despite having shown flashes of brilliance, he would be beaten by teammate Lance Stroll on more than a few occasions on Saturdays, while also not being immune to the odd mistake. Still, races like Japan and Austin reminded us why Sebastian Vettel is a four-time World Champion who we will all miss.
Best race: US GP; Recovered brilliantly after a slightly disappointing qualifying to run in the top 5 and briefly lead the race, before suffering a bad pit stop. Despite the setback, he came home eight pulling off one of the best overtakes of the year in the process.
A heavily criticised driver, Lance Stroll didn't have any major results to show last year. Getting out-qualified by substituting Nico Hulkenberg in the season opener in Bahrain, as well as being involved in some bizarre incidents with the Williams drivers in Saudi Arabia and Australia, wasn't exactly the start to the season he'd hoped for. From there on out though, he demonstrated some decent pace, especially in qualifying, where he'd often finish ahead of his teammate. He also managed to find his way in the lower positions of the top 10 on more than one occasion, in Imola, Canada, France, Brazil, and a couple of other races, while he held off the two most recent world champions to finish sixth in Singapore. His bad habit of not being fully aware on the race track hasn't gone away however, something he proved in Austin when running in the points. It's not a deal breaker for his team, which is owned by his father, but he'll have to get rid of this bad habit if he wants to be considered anything more than a mediocre pay driver in the future.
Best race: Singapore GP; Taking full advantage of the safety car, he faultlessly drove a clean race to sixth place, ahead of both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Sebastian Vettel's start to the season wasn't preferable as he sat out the first two races due to Covid. However, his return made up for this. In 2021, bar his podium, his season seemed to be quite modest, so seeing the slow Aston Martin, expectations were rather low, Nevertheless, Vettel consistently extracted performance from the car, which was seen through his performances at Japan, clearly his favourite track, and Austin. Though he was beaten on occasion by his teammate Lance Stroll on Saturdays, he was still consistent and took opportunities to maximise points. The sport will always miss Vettel and though he didn't leave on a major high, he displayed his undeniable talent.
Best Race: US GP; Where he drove well, recovered from a poor pit stop, and still managed to take home an 8th-place finish.
Lance Stroll has had a highly-critiqued career, with him being labelled as a 'pay driver' on numerous occasions. Despite his powerful performances in 2020 with Racing Point, since Aston Martin has taken over, his results have once again faltered. Considering the car was slow, Stroll still collected some point-scoring finishes, however, they were mostly P9s and P10s, thus they amounted to little. His main issue seems to be his carelessness. He caused unnecessary crashes such as at Austin where he sent his future teammate Fernando Alonso onto two wheels. These mistakes would be excusable if he'd just entered the sport, but Stroll was in his sixth season in Formula One last year. If he wants to prove himself as more than a 'pay driver', he will need to stop the mistakes.
Best Race: Singapore GP; Where he finished an impressive 6th place.
Sebastian Vettel's frustrating decline to an outstanding F1 career meant that premature retirement would seem inevitable, with 2022 being the final chapter of his career, but Vettel still left us with moments to remember in his final season. A frustratingly uncompetitive Aston Martin left a lot to be desired in the early stages of the season, although Vettel still found impressive results including a P8 in Imola and P6 in Azerbaijan, and Vettel's results would pick up with Aston Martin's upturn in development, including a sensational P6 in Japan after being spun on the opening lap, as well as a penultimate-corner overtake in the USA on Kevin Magnussen to claim P8. Although we never quite saw the Sebastian Vettel of old, there were some moments reminding us of the great skill and talent he has, as he rounded off an excellent F1 career.
Best Race: Japanese GP; Vettel starred on the weekend in Suzuka, where he seemed most emotional about leaving the sport, as he reached Q3, and pipped Fernando Alonso to an excellent P6 despite a Lap 1 spin.
Lance Stroll endured yet another unremarkable season as he slumped to P15 in the standings. Regularly finding himself on the fringes or just outside the points, Stroll picked up 10th place on six occasions in 2022, with a P6 in Singapore and P8 in Abu Dhabi as his only other points to show. Stroll's form in the early half of the season was bizarre, being outperformed by super-sub Nico Hulkenberg, as well as being a magnet for incidents in the opening rounds. Stroll's form has got to pick up in 2023 against the much more formidable Fernando Alonso, but a seeming lack of motivation or desire is holding him back in Formula One. Yet another quiet and frustrating season for Stroll with little to remember.
Best Race: Singapore GP; Kept his nose clean in Singapore when many others couldn't, to finish an impressive P6.