Aston Martin yet to reach Force India's level, claims Szafnauer


Former Aston Martin team boss, Otmar Szafnauer believes that the Silverstone-based outfit has yet to achieve the level of performance of one of its predecessors.

Over the years the team has gone through numerous identities and changes of ownership since it first took to the track as Jordan in 1991.

Its last change of hands was in mid-2018 when a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll bought the Force India team which was operating under administration after owner Vijay Mallya found himself accused of fraud and defaulting on loans.

For the remainder of that season the team, under Lawrence's ownership, operated as Racing Point Force India before becoming plain old Racing Point for 2019 and 2020.

For 2021 however, the team acquired yet another identity as it morphed into Aston Martin.

Szafnauer, who had joined Force India in 2009, remained with the Silverstone outfit as it became Racing Point but left at the end of the first year under its new Aston Martin identity.

During his time with Force India, Szafnauer is widely credited as having made significant improvements, taking the team forward from the messy days of Midland and Spyker. He was also responsible for securing the engine partnership with Mercedes that helped move the Silverstone outfit up the grid.

After Aston Martin he joined Alpine, but much like those early days after Jordan this was a team in disarray and Szafnauer left after just 18 months.

Speaking to the Inside Line podcast, the American claims that Aston Martin has yet to achieve the performance level of Force India.

"The significant differences are, Vijay was hands-off," he says, Vijay didn't have a son in the car either," he adds. "So there's less emotion and more objective decision-making.

"Both of them wanted the best on-track performance possible. They both had that drive... 'we want better, we want better, we want better'. So I experienced that from both parties.

"Lawrence actually spent a lot more money in being able to get that performance. It's not that Vijay didn't spend, but Lawrence spent an order of magnitude more. Ironically, the performance at the end of Force India was better than they're performing today.

"After Aston Martin embarked on new factories and new management, I think they were seventh and fifth... we'll see what next year brings.

"But when I was there under Racing Point, we were fourth. The year of administration we were seventh only because we had all of our points taken away, we really should have been fourth that year.

"The following year we were seventh and then back up to fourth again. And then since then it's been seventh 2021 and 2022) and fifth (2023). Not as good as Force India at the end."

Having admitted that Racing Point wasn't compromised by having the boss's son in one of the cars, Szafnauer turns his attention to Lance Stroll.

"The engineers working closely with Lance have to be sometimes brutally honest to be able to extract the best performance," he says. "There are other people within the team too that help, the physiotherapist and sports psychologist and the usual entourage that everybody has, or the drivers have, to make sure that they're working at the highest level.

"There's also hiring world champions to sit alongside Lance in order for him to be able to see what world champions do and how they go about their business to be able to emulate that. So all those things, they're in place and I think because of it they're going to be better off."

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Published: 06/02/2024
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