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"There will be no excuses," insists Aston Martin deputy technical boss

NEWS STORY
24/01/2023

"There are a few little things we've got up our sleeve," says former Mercedes aerodynamicist, as he insists that lessons have been learned.

2022 saw Aston Martin all but stutter to a halt as the British outfit slumped to seventh in the standings. However, deputy technical director, Eric Blandin is confident that lessons have been learned, as the 2022 car became a "laboratory" as the team looked forward.

"We brought a lot of updates to the AMR22 and the progress we made confirmed we're on the right trajectory with the AMR23 which builds on the learnings from last year's car," says Blandin, who prior to joining the Silverstone-based outfit spent ten years with Mercedes, eventually promoted to the role of chief aerodynamicist.

Some of the blame last year was aimed at the team's simulation tools which reportedly gave misleading information. Asked, if this is the case, why the team is still using the same tools, Blandin tells the team's website: "You use the same tools, wind tunnel, CFD cluster, software, but it's all about how you extract the data and how you use it.

"Simulating the problem is complicated," he continues. "There aren't many tools that can do that. On a computational side, you can't predict it with normal software. It's not simply a case of running the car in the windtunnel to see whether it will porpoise: it doesn't work like that because it's a dynamic problem - the aerodynamic loads are constantly changing.

"Throughout the 2022 campaign, we advanced our understanding of this new generation of F1 car in several areas, and this enabled us to identify what was causing the bouncing."

Asked if the bouncing will continue this season, he admits: "It won't disappear completely. It's something that's inherent within this set of regulations. You've got big tunnels channelling air underneath a car that is running very close to the ground and effectively has a skirt created by the floor edge that's sealing the air in, this combination is what makes the car susceptible to porpoising.

"Every F1 car experiences some degree of oscillation," he adds, "but with the current regulations, due to the aerodynamic load and the variation in that aerodynamic load, this oscillation is more pronounced.

"The AMR22 became a laboratory," he admits. "We tested so many things on the track to further our understanding and that growth in understanding was underlined by our improved performance towards the end of last season.

"We were able to push the performance envelope with how we were running the car. This would not have been possible with the initial concept we had at the start of the season.

"We have focused on making changes to this year's car that will prevent porpoising, but we can't guarantee they've worked until we test the car on the track. If we do suffer from porpoising, we've got several tools in our armoury to combat it.

"We took all our learnings from last year's car and applied them to this year's car. So much of the AMR23 is new, it's completely different from the AMR22. We've changed more than 90 per cent of the parts and more than 95 per cent of the aerodynamic surfaces are different."

Over the course of 2022, the team pushed the rules envelope in terms of the bib wing and radical rear wing endplates. Asked if there are any loopholes in the 2023 regulations Blandin says: "We've implemented a few clever innovations on the new car - they're the icing on the cake. They're a nice-to-have, but not a must-have.

"It's great when you find a small loophole and can use it to your advantage, but it's not often you can base an entire car around it. Instead, it's essential to get the basics right, and then you can add things.

"When you start a new car project, you identify what your limitations were the previous year - and how you can overcome them with the new design - and you define the architecture that will give you the most potential for the future.

"If you pursue the wrong concept, you can end up boxing yourself in - you run out of road for development - and that's a very difficult situation to get out of."

It is always important to hit the ground running, but even more so when this year sees just three days of pre-season testing, and the oprening race a week later.

"If you need to resolve an aerodynamic problem, it's very difficult," he admits. "A week doesn't give you enough time to react. And if you've got a significant reliability issue that requires a lot of changes to parts, your cooling or braking system doesn't work or you've got suspension problems, then you're going to be up against it this year with such a short gap between testing and the first Grand Prix.

"Hopefully, the early information we get through from testing will give us a good read on how the car is behaving and confirm that everything is working as it should - then we can focus on going fast."

Starting in F1 with Jaguar, Blandin remained with the Milton Keynes outfit as it morphed into Red Bull, spending five years with the Austrian team. He then spent just over a year with Ferrari before joining Mercedes. However, it was while he was with Ferrari that he worked with Fernando Alonso who joins Aston Martin this season.

"Fernando is an outstanding driver," he says. "There aren't many drivers of his calibre on the grid - you can count them on one hand. He's so passionate, so driven... extremely driven. After everything he's achieved, he still has that restless hunger to win.

"Signing Fernando was massive for the team," he admits. "He's going to push us a lot and help take us to the next level. He'll push Lance, too. They'll complement each other and he'll bring out the best in him. We have a very strong driver pairing, and it's up to us to give them a competitive car.

"We can have the best driver pairing on the grid, but it won't count for much if we don't give them a fast car. We need to deliver."

Alonso drove the AMR22 in the post-season test, and the Spaniard was able to give his new team invaluable feedback.

"Fernando's feedback is extremely precise," says Blandin. "He clearly communicated what he wants from the car and immediately identified a few things that we've been able to feed into the design of the AMR23.

"Last season, Fernando drove a car that was quite different from ours - and more competitive. After driving the AMR22, he was quickly able to compare the two cars and say, 'This is clearly better, this is clearly worse, and this is what we should focus on.'

"It's coming together," he concludes, "the car, the people, the resources. You can feel the energy. Even if we don't get it right this year or next year, or don't make the step forward we're aiming for, we will eventually.

"There's a strong feeling, a belief, that we're on the right path. It's going to take a few years to become championship contenders, but soon we will have everything we need to be successful.

"There will be no excuses."

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1. Posted by Dudley Pope, 23/01/2023 17:59

"Well let's hope they do get it right one doesn't want to see a great name and a great driver in Alonso near the back of the grid, and whilst were at it lets hope Williams can lift itself off the back row as well."

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