MPH: 'Volcanic' Lawrence Stroll's patience is tested by Aston's poor F1 form


Lawrence Stroll has invested millions in Aston Martin, but its F1 car is less competitive than last year — and was slower after an Imola upgrade. How will the volatile team owner react now? wonders Mark Hughes

Lawrence Stroll portrait on F1 grid

Lawrence Stroll has invested heavily in new Aston Martin F1 facilities. He's expecting a return

Aston Martin

A year ago Fernando Alonso came within an ace of stealing the Monaco Grand Prix from Max Verstappen, having come within eight-hundredths of stealing pole from him the day before. That’s not going to happen this year, barring some freak occurrence. Aston Martin is just not in that sort of competitive play this year.

They come to Monaco off the back of a dispiriting Imola where a substantial upgrade package coincided with a drop in competitiveness from an already disappointing base. “We have some balance issues with this car which were not there last year,” said Lance Stroll. “Just the usual stuff: entry oversteer, mid-corner understeer, not good over the kerbs.”

Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso at Imola

Imola exposed the failings in Aston Martin’s F1 car and upgrade package

Aston Martin

Alonso agrees. “I think we both have similar feelings on the car and similar comments. There are a couple of set-up tools and directions that could improve that, something that we were testing on my car in Imola on Sunday for example. But fundamentally we need to keep working on the balance of the car. We added downforce in all the upgrades that we brought to the track but we still cannot use all that downforce in an efficient way in lap time because the balance is maybe not totally perfect in the corners. But I think we understand this. We have a couple of ideas that in the next development of the car and upgrades we’ll try to fix these kind of problems. We are not blind to the dark. We are aware of the situation. But at the same time it’s the nature of these cars as well that as you add downforce they become a little bit more critical and more difficult to drive. And this is something that we need to fix.”

Team boss Lawrence Stroll did not react well to the updated car’s showing at Imola. There was reportedly something of a volcanic response to qualifying. His patience is clearly being tested by the reversal of last year’s positive trajectory. Alonso believes – or at least wants to believe – the boss’s traits will be part of the reason they will recover. “I think different to other teams we have a great leader with Lawrence, not only the owner of the team but also a very, extremely competitive person behind it. And we will fix things quicker than other teams, I think, thanks to him.”

Given Stroll Sr’s ambition, the huge investment he’s made in dramatically upgrading the facilities and sheer scale of the team, the forceful nature of his personality… one wonders how things will develop if there is no reversal of the current trend.

Lawrence Stroll on board a boat called Cloud 9 in Monaco Harbour

Stroll Sr on board an aptly-named boat in Monaco Harbour last year. The mood is different in 2024

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty

“It’s a complex sport,” says Alonso hopefully. “McLaren, until Austria, race seven last year, were fighting for Q1. And they have a great team, great people, great facilities and a great brand behind them as well. And they were out in Q1. And then you find something that brings the car alive and then you are changing everything. And it’s the same for us. Last year until, let’s say, mid-season, we were the team to look at and to copy. And yet suddenly you can quickly take two or three steps backwards. Now we need to focus on ourselves, get back there.”

The unique nature of Monaco this weekend could give some relief from the pressure. While in no position to repeat last year’s form, Alonso just might be able to pull off something noteworthy. “Things are so close between all the teams that here you can be in the top five or out in Q1 with two tenths of a second. This is a little bit difficult to predict at the moment. But I have a good feeling this weekend. Let’s see.”