From Zero to Hero: Aston Martin, revisited

From Zero to Hero: Aston Martin, revisited

If you were to think about Aston Martin last year, your thoughts probably wouldn't be that inspiring. The team struggled to be competitive and achieve points throughout most of the season, with a few exceptions from time to time.

However, that vision seems to have completely changed in the span of months. What was a team generally placed at the back of the grid, now competes for podiums at the front with Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso, and a great support performance with Lance Stroll. The Spanish driver achieved P3 in the first two races of the season, giving a challenge to the big squads like Ferrari and Mercedes.

The modern beginnings

It's the year 2018. The Force India F1 Team is financially struggling and is intervened by the government after the Hungarian Grand Prix. It seems to be the end of their trajectory in Formula 1, and outside investors are already showing interest in adding their teams to the sport's grid.

However, the sinking ship was saved by Lawrence Stroll, a Canadian investor, and father of driver Lance Stroll, weeks before the start of the Belgian Grand Prix. The team was then renamed Racing Point Force India in August of the same year, officially starting a new era for the rescued organization, retaining both Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon for the remainder of the season.

The first full season came in 2019, with the name renamed again to Racing Point F1 Team, running Mercedes engines. They had dropped Ocon and replaced him with Lance Stroll, son of the new owner. Many criticized this decision, though they were not surprised by it - it was an easy upgrade for the Canadian coming from the Williams team, which was already massively struggling with its performance.

Lance Stroll driving the SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team car during practice in the 2019 Formula 1 season. 

It was not all roses for them. While they did have some great performances throughout the season, it was nothing special, and they finished 7th in the constructors' championship, with Stroll achieving an impressive 4th place at the German Grand Prix, which allowed him to start shifting his image from a paid driver to someone deserving of an F1 seat.

Everything changed in 2020. The Coronavirus pandemic had hit the world and the Formula 1 season was heavily affected, with big delays before the first race could even start. When it did, fans and teams alike were surprised to see the magnificent increase in performance from Racing Point. However, many questioned it - their car was very similar to the Mercedes W19 from the previous season, and it also caught the attention of the FIA.

Racing Point was penalized for copying Mercedes' brake ducts, with a deduction of 15 points from the constructors' championship and a 400-thousand-Euro fine, raising the drama in the F1 community around the team. They finished the season in 4th place, a clear upgrade from 2019, and with high hopes for their future.

Aston Martin comeback

The rumors of a possible comeback of the Aston Martin team to Formula 1 started circulating the paddock during the 2020 season, following Lawrence Stroll's purchase of a stake in the company. Then, it was confirmed, the legendary car brand would return to F1 racing in 2021, ending the Racing Point era to start a new chapter in the British manufacturer's history in motorsport.

Expectations were high, especially after the team's past performances with their old name. A well-produced launch revealed the green-and-yellow livery, something bold and different from what the other teams were doing. However, a coat of paint means nothing (or, at least, very, very little) compared to the speed of the car.

Lance Stroll during Formula 1 practice around the Bahrain International Circuit in 2021.

It was also announced that Sebastian Vettel would be replacing Sergio Perez for the season - the Mexican had signed a contract with Red Bull Racing. Little did the Formula 1 community know that Aston Martin would be Vettel's last team before his retirement from the sport.

Not everything went according to plan. The performance of the team had massively dropped from last year. While they achieved 4th in the constructors' championship in the previous season, they only managed to achieve 77 points and finish 7th in 2021.

Things only got more frustrating the next year. Aston Martin was lacking even more performance with the introduction of the new regulations, and while they kept their championship position finishing 7th, they only scored 55 points in total. It was, certainly, a bad season for both drivers, especially for Vettel, who had finally announced his retirement to be effective after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. However, it was special for the British team to be the last home of the World Champion, and they made sure to celebrate the German's career in a big way.

The big news didn't stop there, because AMR had signed Fernando Alonso for 2023. The Spaniard was set to re-sign with French outfit Alpine for another season, racing alongside Esteban Ocon. However, the 2-time World Champion was not content with the offer he had received and instead made an unexpected move to Aston Martin - something that shocked the sport, even the Renault-owned squad.

Fast forward to the first race of the season, and the British team surprised everyone with their performance. Alonso achieved third place at the Bahrain Grand Prix following Charles Leclerc's retirement. He overtook Carlos Sainz for the spot, claiming the first of what would be three podiums in the season so far - Jeddah, and Australia. It was surely an incredible upgrade for Aston Martin, and the expectations only keep getting higher. However, whether the team will be able to keep up with them remains to be seen.