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today is May 30, 2023

Fernando Alonso‘s run of podiums came to an end at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but after DRS problems earlier in the weekend he had reason to smile on Sunday afternoon.

“It worked today. A lot of speed, I’ve never been that fast down a straight for the whole weekend!”

The Aston Martin drivers had been unable to consistently use DRS on Friday, when qualifying for the grand prix was held. Alonso and team mate Lance Stroll lined up sixth and ninth respectively on Sunday’s grid – the worst qualifying performance so far this year for both drivers at the team which has been the surprise package of the season to date.

In qualifying for the sprint race they were only eighth and ninth fastest as they suffered from the same problem. But a fix was found and implemented with the permission of the FIA. Alonso and Stroll finished sixth and eighth in the sprint race, then fourth and seventh in the grand prix.

Stroll was asked about the lap time impact of having faulty DRS around Baku, a track featuring several long straights. “I don’t think we would have been on pole… It’s always hard to say. For sure we would have been a couple positions ahead on the grid.”

To have qualified two places higher he would have needed to have gone a third of a second faster, with an improvement of just under a quarter of a second required for Alonso to have qualified in the top four.

Team principal Mike Krack played down the impact of the fault, pointing out their DRS was only failing to open in one of the two zones. “It was more a distraction than a genuine disadvantage,” he explained.

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“The DRS was working on the back straight. So it was obviously a small penalty, but in both sprint and in the race, it worked.

“When you do the analysis, in qualifying we lost mainly in sector two, which is not the DRS zone. So obviously it is a distraction, and a lot of the team is then focusing around that. That is also the reason why you don’t want to have these issues in the FP1 session.

“But overall, I think we managed to solve it. We would have liked to solve it earlier on, or not have it in the first place, but at the end of the day it’s not such a drama.”

All teams’ cars were put under parc ferme conditions – which limits what changes can be made – a day earlier than usual last weekend under F1’s sprint event format. However Aston Martin was nonetheless able to put a solution in place.

“We did everything with the FIA,” said Krack. “The FIA was very helpful on this. You will have seen that we have changed one flap on Fernando’s car. It was after a routine check, basically because if you pull all the time on the flap, and it is not moving, then you’re putting stress on it. So for safety, we wanted to change it.”

Stroll did not have a flap change on his car, and his engineer Ben Michell repeatedly told him over the radio during the grand prix to activate DRS later down the main straight than the activation line. If the flap had failed to open upon command, then a later ‘activation’ point would have meant less time spent under strain for the mechanism before the the rear wing closed when Stroll reached the end of the straight.

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Initially Michell said Stroll could use DRS freely if he was actively attempting to overtake someone on that lap. However the team’s guidance became more restrictive later in the race as they continued to monitor the problem on his car:

Lap: 19/51 Michell We think late press at the DRS line is preferred at the moment. You have early press if you want to attack. Lap: 26/51 Michell Late press only at the DRS line. Late press only at the DRS line. Tyre feedback when you can. Lap: 28/51 Michell So we need late press only at the DRS line, Lance. We can’t be pressing early and cancelling. It doesn’t help us. Michell Late press at the DRS line only. Lap: 45/51 Michell Late press only, late press only, we need to get to zero.

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Krack said the fix put in place by the team in Baku for the 17-lap sprint race and grand prix was not fully proven yet. “It’s the difference between working for one lap, or working for 17 plus 51. So that is also why we were a bit careful in saying we have fixed it.

“I think today we can say we have fixed it. But if you would have asked me before the sprint, I was not so confident.”

He hopes to confirm ahead of Sunday’s race at the Miami International Autodrome that their DRS is now working as intended.

“I’m not an aerodynamicist, so I need to be careful to jump to a conclusion before we have done the full analysis”, said Krack. Asked whether it will be fixed in Miami he said: “I think so.”

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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  • Aston Martin radio messages reveal how “older brother” Alonso helps Stroll
  • How slashing practice to a single hour in Baku tripped up F1 teams
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  • Aston Martin hoping DRS fix works in Miami after Stroll manages fault in race

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