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Exclusive: Aston Martin success down to more than 'Red Bull effect'

In an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com, Aston Martin Engineering Director Luca Furbatto has revealed why simply copying from Red Bull is impossible and how the entire team has contributed to its stunning start to the new F1 season.

When Racing Point transitioned to become the Aston Martin Formula 1 team, the goal was clear: Become a World Championship contender. Owner Lawrence Stroll has overseen a rapid upscaling of the team that once was the minnow in Jordan, which has since battled in the guises of Midland, Spyker and Force India and was often forced to punch above its weight. But this has all changed, with new state-of-the-art infrastructure nearing completion which will see the team boast the most modern factory complex in F1, a fact bolstered by an aggressive recruitment programme. Luca Furbatto has held various roles across the grid since beginning his F1 engineering career with Tyrrell [subsequently BAR] and joined Aston Martin as Engineering Director in 2021. His work alongside Performance Director Tom McCullough, Technical Director Dan Fallows and his deputy, Eric Blandin, has seen the outfit make huge strides in the pecking order and with four podiums in the opening five races for Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin sits second in the Constructors' Standings. Speaking exclusively to RacingNews365.com , Furbatto has outlined how Aston Martin has made such an impact on the championship.

Aston Martin appeal

Furbatto had been working as Chief Designer for Alfa Romeo before his switch to Aston Martin which presented an offer too good to turn down. "In 2020 I was approached by Andrew Green [now Aston Martin Performance Technologies CTO] and Lawrence," said Furbatto. "They described to me the potential of Racing Point migrating to Aston Martin and what I could contribute in terms of definition of the technical structure, as well as also helping out with the new buildings and infrastructure for the team. "That was very appealing. During Covid, it was quite challenging in terms of travel, so coming back to the UK was very attractive to me. The prospect of Aston Martin, along with the growth and ability to compete to win, really was a key factor in my decision." The Italian was instantly presented with duality in his role - a focus on the performance of the car as well as overseeing aspects of the infrastructural improvements. "When I arrived here, Building One was just started, the foundations were there but nothing more," he explained. "So I spent a bit of time looking at the layout of the building, particularly with the R&D labs and the testing facilities, which I think happened before I started pouring the concrete for the foundations there. The same has happened for Building Three. "As you can imagine, as we are growing, we need bigger facilities than we had in this building, in terms of dynos, rigs and so on. We wanted to make sure with the new building, you got all the services that were state of the art to support that project. "Dan did the same for the wind tunnel in specifying the spec of the wind tunnel. It is not just about looking at the performance of the car but the limitations of the current facilities and how we can make it better because our objective is to be World Champion."

I think it is fair to say the new car is a result of a team effort

Luca Furbatto - Aston Martin Engineering Director

Red Bull copy 'not possible'

Whilst Furbatto and Blandin were two big-name movers as part of the influx of staff, Fallows garnered the most attention given his previous role as aerodynamics guru for Red Bull. Fallows' contractual situation led to a tug-of-war between the two parties which resulted in him being placed on gardening leave until the beginning of 2022, meaning he could have little-to-no impact on the design focus for Aston Martin and the AMR22. The team struggled at the beginning of F1's new regulatory era and switched aerodynamic philosophy at the Spanish Grand Prix, unveiling a look that Red Bull poked fun over as a copycat of its machinery - earning the AMR22 its 'Green Bull' title. But Green was adamant at the time that the design was one considered before the launch of the car and that the team had simply gone down the wrong route initially. Any influence from Fallows would have been impossible due to the timeline of the changes, yet hasty conclusions were drawn from those looking from the outside in. Similar can be said of this year's success with those quick to criticise Aston Martin pointing to the similarities in aerodynamic profile to the dominant RB19 - with the obvious links to Fallows being made. On the murmurings surrounding the AMR23's likeness to Red Bull machinery, Furbatto said: "Obviously there are discussions - some are provocations in a way but ultimately, we are using a Mercedes power unit, gearbox and rear suspension. "In a way, those are constraints for us. A like-for-like copy, in reality, is not possible because the two cars are fundamentally two different architectures. "It is fair to say Dan and Eric have brought a different approach to our aerodynamics and that in terms of lap time is probably a sizeable step. But if you look at last season, the second half of last season, we had already made significant improvements. "Obviously, we work on areas like weight, compliances, weight distribution. For example, the drivers were not particularly happy... you can see on onboard footage there was a lot of vibration and so on. "I think it is fair to say the new car is a result of a team effort, we really started from a blank sheet of paper and the improvements are 360 degrees really." Detailing the carryover from 2022, he added: "We changed aero concept in race six last year and started in February to release some of the first parts before the Red Bull was launched. "We identified that effectively, we had taken the wrong direction from an aerodynamic point of view with the launch spec car. We introduced a number of mechanical upgrades, as well as aero upgrades, in the season and the car got better and better. "Later in the season, we were probably fifth fastest, constantly in the points. We struggled a little bit to put together the single-lap performance but in terms of the race pace, we were always very strong and I think you can see after the shutdown, we were almost a different team compared to the first part of the season. "So now you can see some lap time gains in places like Jeddah or Bahrain was something like three seconds, four seconds. I doubt very much you will see the same delta in the second part of the year."

Work in harmony

With Green's move away from a hands-on role with the F1 project, there is currently no competition-specific Chief Technical Officer for the engineering hierarchy to report to. This falls out of line when considering the structures in place across the majority of the grid, but Furbatto sees no issue with the systems currently in place. "We are all easy-going, all want to succeed and move the team forward so the motivation is there. We have got a clear definition of our responsibilities with no overlaps and I think that makes it quite easy to operate because of that. "We talk to each other every day, work in harmony and share everything across the three of us. That is not a problem. A very good team effort."

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