The four stages of Aston Martin’s budget cap grief
Is Lawrence Stroll currently encountering the first stage of budget cap grief?
It is widely recognised that there are five stages of grief, being; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.
With this in mind, one has to wonder if Aston Martin is currently going through the first stage of budget cap grief.
According to The Usual Suspects, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. The greatest trick that F1 ever pulled was convincing the world, including the teams, that the playing field can be levelled.
Sure, there is always going to be the odd, freak result, but the likes of Williams, Haas or AlphaTauri challenging for podiums, far less wins, on a regular basis, come on!
For reasons previously explained, the budget cap was never going to work, not unless the sport effectively started from scratch, for those at the top of the pile at the time the cap was put in place were always going to remain there.
Mercedes made a mistake in 2022 and following its failure to learn is currently paying the price, however Melbourne showed that the German team is determined to make its way back to the front.
Ferrari is simply being Ferrari, as any long-time fan of the sport will tell you, whilst Red Bull is riding the crest of a wave it will likely continue to ride until the new formula in 2026.
And then there’s Aston Martin.
If a team could write an autobiography, think about the tale the Silverstone-based outfit could tell, from its days as Jordan, through its various guises and owners, Midland, Spyker, Force India and finally Racing Point.
When Lawrence Stroll bought Force India in mid-2018, there were many who thought ‘here we go again’, predicting that just a couple of years down the line there would be another change of name and ownership as the Canadian billionaire became the latest to discover the truth in the old adage about the way to make a small fortune in F1 is to start with a large fortune.
There was indeed a change of name, for in 2020, having bought a 16.7% stake in Aston Martin, the Canadian announced his plans for the future and despite the continued feeling of deja vu his subsequent signing of four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel caused us all to take him a little more seriously.
Along with plans for a new state-of-the-art factory, Stroll started recruiting some of the best names in the business, luring talent from the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull, making clear that money was no object in his quest to make Aston Martin a winner.
On track, the results were so-so, and though some were already suggesting that the venture was clear proof that you can’t buy success, Stroll continued his work (and spending) behind the scenes.
As Vettel exited stage right, the German having clearly fallen out of love with the sport, another title winning veteran entered stage left, Fernando Alonso, one of the most talented drivers to grace the sport but the bearer of much baggage.
At the launch of the AMR23, Stroll’s comments followed the usual pattern. “This year’s move into our new state-of-the-art factory is more than just a serious statement of intent,” he said, “it will considerably strengthen and empower every single individual in this organisation, helping us to deliver on our ambition to narrow the gap to the front of the grid and, in time, become genuine championship frontrunners.
“In the past year, we have demonstrated the determination and belief needed to move forward and we have constructed a brand-new car to match our vision and ambition,” he added. “The talk today is of new energy – and, believe me, it feels like a fresh start and an incredibly promising and ambitious way to begin the new season.”
Blah, blah, blah!
Despite the widespread scepticism, it did indeed appear to mark a fresh start when Alonso was just 0.029s off Max Verstappen’s pace on the first day of testing. Though the Spaniard lost a little ground to the world champion on the second day, by the end of the test people were taking Aston Martin a lot more seriously.
And then came Bahrain, where Alonso was on it from the outset, claiming the first of three successive podiums, while teammate Lance Stroll subsequently helped put the team a convincing second in the standings.
At which point we encounter the first stage of budget cap grief, that being the need to win races.
“He has not been having any delay in asking us ‘when are we going to win the next one?’,” admits team boss, Mike Krack.
“Obviously he is happy we made the step but this is not enough for his ambitions,” he adds. “The good thing with Lawrence is you know where you’re standing. He wants more and we will have to deliver more.
Stage two of budget cap grief is Krack claiming that the team can win races, despite the fact that at this point in time, it is highly unlikely that Aston Martin can win on merit, though tracks known for throwing up odd results – tracks such as Baku, Monaco and Hungary – offer the Silverstone-based outfit hope.
With this in mind, stage three is Krack claiming that the team would win races if it wasn’t for the budget cap…
Which leads us to stage four, which is when Aston Martin continues to impress throughout 2023 and into 2024, once again finishing an impressive third in the standings, but still unable to make that final leap, at which point Krack reveals that Stroll has told the team that if the budget cap isn’t scrapped, he is going to pull out of F1.
Name the stages any way you wish, but stage four is Stroll accepting that under the budget cap further progress is impossible.