Aston Martin wins the early season quote of the year in Formula 1 when he said Red Bull is "absolutely beatable" in a press gathering on Sunday.
Aston Martin has yet to win a race during its current three-year run in the series.
The team's No. 1 driver, two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso, did have a solid season for the team in 2023 with eight podiums and a fourth-place finish in the F1 Drivers' Championship.
If nothing else, you have to give Aston Martin F1 team principal Mike Krack points for setting the bar high for the 2024 Formula 1 season.
On the other hand, maybe he just poked the bear... and that rarely ends well.
Krack raised more than a few eyebrows, and even got a bit of a laugh from Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso, when he said on Sunday, "We take the approach that Red Bull are absolutely beatable, that's what we're chasing after we're focusing on them, and that's what we're aiming for."
Krack, team technical director Dan Fallows and Aston Martin drivers Alonso and Lance Stroll spoke to racing media via Zoom on Sunday ahead of this morning's launch of the Aston Martin AMR24 for the 2024 Formula 1 season.
Krack's comment was coming on behalf of an organization that finished a distant fifth in the F1 Constructors' Standings in 2023. Red Bull scored 860 points and Aston Martin managed just 280.
Add to that the fact that Aston Martin has yet to win a race during its current three-year run in Formula 1, though Alonso did have a solid season for the team in 2023 with eight podiums and a fourth-place finish in the F1 Drivers' Championship. That was the most podium finishes for the two-time F1 champion since the 2013 season.
Krack's comments even brought a bit of a chuckle from Alonso.
"Well, that that's a good thing that he says that," Alonso said. "Put a smile on my face. I didn't speak with Dan (Fallows) for a few weeks now. But, yeah, I think we have to be optimistic at this part of the season.
"I think we saw last year as well, Ferrari finished really strong, and achieved a few pole positions in the last part of the year. McLaren also did a huge step during the season and got close to the Red Bull in a few races. So, yeah, let's see what happens."
As for Aston Martin's chances to be in the title fight this year with the AMR24, Alonso was a little more guarded.
"I think we have to be a regular in the points first, fighting for podiums, so be a contender for podiums as we did last year," Alonso said. "And then if we are in that position, yeah, it will be lovely to achieve the first victory in green for Aston Martin and hopefully, I can be behind the wheel at that moment.
"But I think we have to go step by step. It's going to be very tight. There are four or five teams within two or three tenths of the second this year, I bet. So, that will put you, yeah, within two-tenths of the second fighting for podiums or fighting out of the top 10. So we need to be really focused on that."
Technical boss Fallows added that while Red Bull is the current gold standard in the sport—it's hard to argue with Red Bull's back-to-back dominate seasons—there's reason for optimism in Aston Martin's corner for 2024.
"So we talk about Red Bull, because obviously they are the benchmark in terms of performance," Fallows said. "But really, for us, whoever's the fastest car, that is the focus for us and that's what we're looking at. I think rather than thinking about individual races, from an engineering point of view, we have to make a car that's capable of operating at any circuit and being competitive.
"And that's really what we're focused on, is making a car that's usable, that's good for the drivers and that's what we've really been trying to focus on. Those sort of competitive stats, and how we get close to Red Bull will come after that. If we put that performance on the car, then then we give ourselves the ability to compete at that level, which is exactly what we want."
As for the AMR24, Fallows said that the closer one looks, the more the car looks different than the 2023 version.
"We've made changes all over the car," Fallows said. "It's very different in many ways. The majority of the parts have changed on it. But it is really still essentially a strong evolution of last year's car. So, we have kind of built on the end of AMR23.
"The obvious things you'll see that a different are things like the front nose and from wing. Bodywork will be different. But there's also obviously quite a lot of stuff under the hood, but we will obviously try and keep some of that under wraps.
"The front suspension layout, that's a similar layout to what we had on a AMR23—a system of push rod. We've inherited new suspension from Mercedes, they obviously give us the gearbox and the structure of the rear suspension, so that has changed slightly from last year as well.
"So there's a change on the rear, but the front is very similar."
We'll see if the results are any different and how it matches up with the other new cars for 2024 when the AMR24 hits the track for preseason testing at Bahrain, Feb. 21-23.