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Aston Martin explain impact of cost cap, tyres and porpoising on 2022 preparations

Tom McCullough, Performance Director at Aston Martin, has given an insight into how the team have been affected by key changes brought in for 2022, including the challenge of adhering to the budget cap.

Aston Martin head into this weekend's 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix, the opening round of the new season, with very few fans knowing what to expect from them. The team have a five-year plan in place, by the end of which owner Lawrence Stroll is hopeful that they will be challenging the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull for podiums and race wins. While their new state-of-the-art headquarters and wind tunnel remain under construction, the British outfit must plan their way to the top on what many hope will be a more level playing field due to the sport's new cost cap. The AMR22 was the first real car to be unveiled ahead of the 2022 campaign, and plenty of contrasting designs have since emerged across the paddock. In both Barcelona and Bahrain, Aston Martin enjoyed low-key tests that left very few pundits or rival drivers discussing their car in any great detail. Besides a lost aerodynamic rake and a brief issue for Sebastian Vettel, the car appeared reliable during testing's second week and could, as with any midfield team, spring a surprise at the weekend. Ahead to the new season, Aston Martin's Performance Director, Tom McCullough, has given an insight into the team's preparations.

Why spending problems remain for Aston Martin

The arrival of billionaire Lawrence Stroll as team owner could have, in years gone by, handed Aston Martin the chance to spend their way to dominance. But now they must try to climb the ladder under the restraints of a cost cap, geared to prevent an arms race amongst the sport's top teams. Once upon a time, the Silverstone-based outfit had to be selective as to how they spent their cash, given that they did not have as much as their rivals. Now, though, due to the cost cap, Aston Martin must be as equally selective so as to ensure that they remain within the rules, holding back some upgrades. "Obviously, we're a team who is going up to the budget cap as opposed to coming down from being way over it - but it's still very much a factor for ourselves," McCullough, speaking to media, explained when RacingNews365.com asked about how selective the team must be with upgrades in light of spending limits. "In the past, as a team, we've had to make a lot of decisions on performance updates relative to cost. That's when we had no money to be able to make the bits, we had to justify making them! "In a way, it's sort of the same challenge now. What do you need to change? What is the bang for buck? How much performance are they going to bring? "You always want to get the bits on the car to have a faster car and start scoring more points sooner, but if you can wait one race and get a significant gain, then it sometimes does make sense from a cost side of things."

Porpoising has hurt other teams more than Aston Martin

The team's pre-season testing was low-key. The new Aston Martin never topped the timesheets, but it did at times show pace to suggest that the car could compete with the likes of McLaren, with so much still unknown ahead of this weekend's 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix. Their time in Barcelona and Bahrain was spent learning all they could about the AMR22, comparing and correlating data, and finding a balance between pain and performance with porpoising, the aerodynamic phenomenon that has become the sport's latest buzzword. It was a bouncing Ferrari in Barcelona that first brought attention to the return of the issue, but it was Mercedes and AlphaTauri who appeared to still be particularly struggling with it by the end of testing in Bahrain. "Obviously, when all the teams turned up in Barcelona to start off with, there was an element of a bit more porpoising up and down the pit lane," McCullough said. "Most teams, during that test, were able to reduce that either through geometry changes or by how you operate the car from a ride height side of things. "You saw teams throughout Bahrain sometimes porpoising, sometimes not, ourselves too. We did some tests that could initiate it, and it's all about that balance between still wanting to maximise performance but also not wanting the porpoising. "It's not good for reliability and it's not good for lots of things. It's that balance between retaining performance and reducing porpoising, which is the balance that everyone's playing with up and down the pit lane, really."

McCullough: New tyres threw up no surprises

"We obviously did some mule car testing last year ourselves, at Silverstone and then at the end of the Abu Dhabi test with the 18 inch tyres," McCullough continued. "The tyres are so dependent on the load you put into them, and also the kind of tracks that you go to!" Much of the work done in Bahrain has helped the team to build their understanding of the new 18-inch tyres, McCullough has said, allowing them to calibrate their data with that from the simulator back at Silverstone, a crucial step ahead of a season with 23 different events. "Having done Silverstone and Abu Dhabi, then to go into Barcelona and Bahrain, they're very different tracks, very different tarmacs, different energy inputs. But also the characteristic of these cars puts the load into the tyres in a very different way, as well," he continued. "I think from a tyre side of things, it's largely as we thought it was going to be. They are quite different, the tyres, but they're still Pirelli tyres."

Cognizant 'more that just a sticker on the car' for Aston Martin

Aston Martin's testing work was carried out with the support of information technology partner Cognizant, who in return have kept their large share of real estate on the car's livery for the new season. "We've been working with Cognizant now for the last year, and throughout the year they've been getting to understand how we work with a lot of workshops and sessions," McCullough explained.

"They're now at a stage where they really understand what we do with all our data, and how we post-process it, how we store it, how we visualise it and how we interpret the data. "There's a lot of online meetings, and even people working at the factory, just getting them to understand what we're doing and use their skill set to help us just be more efficient. "You talk about the cost cap, processing data and visualising data, when our job's all about data, is just so important. "They're more than just a sticker on the car. That's largely where they're getting more and more involved with us."

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