The season opener brought a nasty surprise for Aston Martin. The team, which at least wanted to play in the upper midfield, struggled with Williams at the end of the table. The wind tunnel attested the AMR22 much better values than it could show on the racetrack.
“The bouncing slowed us down,” explained technical director Andy Green. “It forced us to drive the car in a configuration it wasn’t designed for. We had to drive it higher than we wanted and that cost us massive amounts of lap time.”
The engineers were faced with the question of whether they could keep the concept and eliminate the bouncing of the car by modifying the underbody, or whether they should switch to another concept that had already proven that it worked.
When the B version of the Aston Martin was rolled out of the garage, it was clear how Andy Green’s design team had decided. It is a major conversion that looks amazingly similar to another car. The paddock already scoffed at the “green Red Bull”.
FIA inspectors at the Aston Martin factory
In fact, between axles, the AMR22B shares a lot of similarities with the Red Bull RB18. From the side pods, which descend to the ground in the form of a ramp. Up to the eight ducts and the vertical baffles in the front area of the underbody. The FIA knew beforehand. In the case of upgrades, the teams must submit CAD files for the individual components to the world association in advance.
Because of the large number of matches, FIA inspectors turned up at Aston Martin’s Silverstone factory on Tuesday and Wednesday this week to investigate whether there had been any unauthorized exchange of information. The association has now given Aston Martin the green light. According to the findings, the car was designed in-house without outside help.
The suspicion was also obvious because seven Red Bull engineers had changed sides over the past year, including former aerodynamics chief Dan Fallows. After the first photos of the retreaded Aston Martin circulated on the Internet, Red Bull also wondered whether the defectors had taken more than just their knowledge with them.
No help from ex-Red Bull employees
Aston Martin rejects the suspicion. The team from Silverstone poached not only in the Red Bull design office, but also at Mercedes. And you still haven’t gone the Mercedes route, although the gearbox and rear wheel suspension are bought from Mercedes.
In addition, former Red Bull man Dan Fallows only moved into his new office in April of this year due to his work ban and can therefore have had no influence whatsoever on the design of the B version.
Because the new Aston Martin is not a quick reaction to the bad start to the season, but has been developed in the wind tunnel since November last year. “If we had only started the program after the first race, we would never have been able to put two B versions on the wheels before Barcelona,” says an engineer.
Aston Martin therefore always planned with two different concepts, because the technical regulations in the development phase left open which way would be the right one. In October 2021, the Aston Martin designers made the decision for the A version.
“The values in the wind tunnel got better and better and the curve showing how much downforce we would get for it pointed steeply upwards. A month later we then discovered that we weren’t getting any further. That we had to place the car higher and higher, the more downforce we grabbed onto it. And that made the car fall out the window that we designed it for. So we were moving backwards.”
Since November 2021 work on B version
Therefore, the engineers resumed work on the temporarily shut down B version. And they had side boxes like the Red Bull, without ever having seen the RB18. An engineer reveals: “We were able to show the FIA CAD data and photos from our wind tunnel model last autumn and prove that we didn’t copy anything.”
The restart of the B version came too late for the start of the season. Production has long since started for the A specification. However, because it was clear that sooner or later Aston Martin would switch to the alternative, only a minimum of parts were produced from all components in order not to conflict with the cost cap too early in the season. For example, there was only one spare part for each cooler.
Andy Green recalls that when he presented the car, he already pointed out that when the chassis was being designed, one had in mind to drive with different configurations.
The cooling system and the packaging of the innards are arranged completely differently on the new car. Which is also proof that the B version was planned for a long time. “The chassis had to be built to accommodate two different cooling systems. If we hadn’t done that, it would have been impossible to switch to the new sidepod geometry.”
New concept less prone to bouncing
Actually, the use of the AMR22B was only intended for the GP England at Silverstone. But when it became apparent after the first two races that the A version was still suffering from bouncing and therefore did not even achieve the downforce values that the wind tunnel promised, Andy Green pulled the ripcord. The retreaded car had to be put on its wheels as quickly as possible.
At that time, some parts for the upgrade had already been produced with a view towards Silverstone. “We wouldn’t have made it through Barcelona without this advance effort,” says the team. For Aston Martin, the season begins anew. One is therefore also prepared for the fact that the success of the measure will not be immediately apparent. “We have to understand the new car first.”
So it could well be that the B version is also slowed down by bouncing. However, engineers are confident that rocking can be better controlled with the Red Bull concept. “Because now we don’t have to drive the car so low and so hard to generate enough downforce. It’s a completely different approach to gaining downforce. More travel is more comfortable for the drivers and better for the tires.”
It’s déjà vu for Green and his colleagues. Two years ago they were criticized for replicating last year’s Mercedes. But this time there is a crucial difference. “The nose, the front and rear wings and the suspension are completely different from the Red Bull. That’s why you can’t speak of a copy. The ramp shape of the sidepods is not only seen in the Red Bull, but also in other cars.”