Formula One has reached new levels of domination as Max Verstappen sets an all-time record for consecutive wins. Even after an era of Mercedes excellence, Verstappen's 2023 feels more predictable thanks to a lack of challenge from the other car sharing the Red Bull garage. Sergio Perez is not at the level of the two-time champion in the other RB19 — not even close — and the result is a one-man championship out front. Yet Perez's failings somewhat mask another driver's even vaster deficit to a superior two-time title-winning teammate: Lance Stroll.
The Aston Martin (AMF1) advance in 2023 was the story of pre-season testing and the first 'third' of the championship. Rather than have Mercedes or Ferrari as the only hope to challenge for podium finishes, we suddenly had the green team regularly lifting trophies. What a story for F1 after such an extended spell of the 'big three' being the only ones at the top.
At the time of writing, Aston Martin boasts the most podium appearances outside Red Bull Racing, with seven items of silverware from 2023. For context, Mercedes has five, Ferrari four, and there are two trophies for McLaren and Alpine. Considering Aston Martin finished behind all four of those teams in the 2022 World Constructors' Championship, that is a remarkable turn of events.
Image: Aston Martin F1
Well done to everyone at the Silverstone headquarters in making it to a sensational seven trophies (and counting), but there's a penny-drop moment coming. Lance Stroll hasn't reached the podium once in 2023. All the glory goes to newcomer Fernando Alonso, whose efforts have seen four P3 finishes and three second places. Meanwhile, Stroll has a solitary P4 as his season-best in a year that increasingly looks to expose the Canadian's weakness at a whole new level.
Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's dad, has plowed considerable investment into Aston Martin since the 2018 buyout of the then-Racing Point team, and 2023 is the first year that reveals that potential. Stroll is a businessman who has found repeat success in every venture he's turned his hand to, and it seems inevitable that Aston Martin will find victory in F1, with a title as a somewhat realistic goal.
The financial power at his disposal has brought along two world champions, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, to advance the team's development with their expertise. With the cost cap in place for all 10 constructors, paying for some of the sport's best minds who also happen to be racers is a genius move — the cost cap regulations don't include driver salaries. The problem with Stroll Sr.'s approach is that it makes his son look anonymous at best, and out of his depth at worst.
Image: Aston Martin F1
Many consider Alonso one of the best racing drivers currently competing in motorsport. After all, he is one event away from completing the hallowed triple crown – winning the Monaco GP, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Indy 500. It's no wonder the Spaniard is beating Stroll in equal machinery, but the gulf in results is striking. Alonso's 170 points to Stroll's 47 is impossible to defend, no matter how big a fan of the Canadian you might be.
Thinking back to Perez for a moment, consider how much the Mexican driver would have to step up his game to beat Verstappen and be champion. Now reflect that Perez partnered Stroll in the Racing Point years and roundly outscored and outperformed the Montreal-born driver. If Verstappen is making Perez look average in Red Bull this year, how woeful would Stroll look in that seat instead?
I turn your attention to Red Bull's all-conquering 2023 because that is the level that Aston Martin would need to reach for their championship-winning dreams to come true. Alonso might find himself winning a third title if Aston Martin develops a P1-challenging car, but would the team take the constructor's crown with Stroll in support? Only with RB19-level dominance, I suspect.
Image: Aston Martin F1
If Stroll didn't turn up for any races in 2023, Aston Martin wouldn't lose a place in the championship, thanks to Alonso's results. Inversely, a Lance Stroll-only Aston Martin would slip from fourth to sixth in the standings, behind McLaren and Alpine. To really highlight the performance difference, if there were two Alonso-level drivers at Aston Martin, they'd comfortably take the vice-champion title — and the prize money and plaudits that go with it — on their current trajectory.
Yes, Aston Martin will happily soak up Alonso's silverware moments of 2023 in their advance up the order, but those at the team's top must ask questions about what might've been. If Alonso retains his best-of-the-rest position behind the Red Bulls, it shows that Aston Martin has a car capable of beating the Mercedes and Ferraris, yet they languish behind both in the constructors' standings. That's down to the low-scoring other driver in the team, so will they address that?
It's a fascinating storyline to follow. One that will grow in importance the better Aston Martin gets in the coming years. No other driver has a father who buys an F1 team to help them realize their dream. But is Lance Stroll's dad's target seeing his son become champion or to own a championship-winning constructor? If the former, what does he do about Alonso taking the acclaim? But the other possibility provides the most intrigue — what does Lawrence do with Lance if his son stands in the way of glory?