This contrast of how close Red Bull is this season compared to 12 months ago shows just how much the 2021 floor changes have impacted things, Aston Martin team boss Otmar Szafnauer believes.
“If you just look at the last race without the [final] pit stops, Lewis was 34 seconds ahead of Max at last year’s Portimao,” said Szafnauer. “And had they not had the pitstops at the end to try to get the fastest lap, I think this year there was four seconds in it.
“So they [Mercedes] lost 30 seconds in one race to a Red Bull. And we too, if you look at our times where we finished, we too were about 30 seconds behind from where we were last year. So just look at the first three races, look at both qualifying as well as race results.”
Aston Martin has been in discussions with the FIA in recent weeks to try to get a better understanding of the rules process and motivation for changing the floors.
While its hopes of getting a rules concession to help the lower rake cars are fading, Szafnauer said he was happy at least that the team had received some answers.
“We’ve had good discussions with the FIA to understand the process and how we got to where we got to,” he said.
“The discussions have almost come to an end and I think we’ve made good progress to having a better understanding of what transpired.”
Szafnauer revealed that as early as last summer, his team was already alerted about how the floor changes would hurt the low rake cars when it did some windtunnel back-to-back tests.
“We had developed a high rake car for many, many years, since the high rake concept started with a blown floor, and we are the only one to change from a high rake philosophy to a low rake.
“So we’ve got the ability internally, through both CFD and doing tunnel runs, as well as the experience of both, to have a look at the changes, and be able to determine if it is more detrimental to one philosophy than the other, which is exactly what we did.
“It’s exactly what we brought up in August of last year, and I think were proven correct.”
Szafnauer said that three teams were against the floor changes, and made clear their unease during an indicative vote at the Technical Advisory Committee.
However, with the FIA pushing the regulation changes through on safety grounds, there was no avenue open for Aston Martin to stop the new rules.
Szafnauer said Aston Martin did propose that F1 look at an alternative to changing the floor, but this was not accepted.
“We proposed to not have the second change that was made because the changes came in succession,” he said.
“We thought the first change that was applied was enough to slow the cars, so we suggested to just keep it there.
“But there were other solutions that were proposed, and not by us but early on.
“I’ll give you an example, of reducing the rear wing size, and that would have affected everybody equally. But that wasn’t chosen.”
Asked if there was anything else Aston Martin could have done, Szafnauer said: “I don’t think so. We pointed it out at the time, and once the regulations were written and accepted, we [just had to] work hard at trying to claw back all the downforce that we lost.”