Mercedes can expect an attack from the customer team: ‘Upgrades to the floor, among other things’

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Mercedes can expect an attack from the customer team: 'Upgrades to the floor, among other things'

Aston Martin hopes to take over fourth place from Mercedes thanks to a package of upgrades in Japan. For a while this seemed to be working in Australia, but thanks to a penalty for Fernando Alonso, the British team is still one point behind the engine supplier. Aston Martin will arrive in Suzuka with an improved car and has already started collaboration with Honda, which will supply the power sources from 2026.

Honda caused a major shock in Formula 1 in October 2020 by announcing its retirement from Formula 1. The Japanese brand regretted this in 2021, partly because Max Verstappen won the title with Honda power sources. Red Bull Racing started looking for a new partner, and after a flirt with Porsche, the Austrian team decided to set up its own engine department: Red Bull Powertrains.

Aston Martin Honda

Not much later, Honda’s management changed its mind and decided to remain active as a full-fledged engine supplier. Since Red Bull had already made other plans, they ended up with Aston Martin in 2023. That collaboration started immediately. “Developing a new power unit takes several years, so we started working with Honda immediately after announcing our collaboration in May 2023,” says Eric Blandin, Aston Martin’s deputy technical director.

In conversation with Formu1a.uno, the Frenchman is positive about the collaboration with Honda. ‘Although the teams are not yet allowed to work on the 2026 cars from an aerodynamic point of view, and the regulations have not yet been fully finalised, we have been able to work with Honda. We have had a very positive and promising start to the collaboration. We work well together and exchange many good ideas, so we are excited to see what the future will bring us.”

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Get up early on Japanese weekend

There is an eight-hour time difference between Japan and Great Britain, as European Formula 1 fans will experience again this weekend through the early sessions, and to strengthen the collaboration Honda opened a headquarters in Europe. This weekend, Aston Martin employees will have to keep to the adjusted hours. ‘We have many people at the AMR Technology Campus who work according to Japanese time zones. So they start working in the early hours of the morning, before the first free practice in Japan starts, and then continue working until the free practice is over. So many people start adjusting their rhythm on Monday.’

“A lot of parts went straight from Melbourne to Japan after the Australian Grand Prix, because you don’t just want to send to England first and then back to Japan,” Blandin explains. It is difficult for the team members. ‘Most went home first after Australia, but some stayed in that part of the world and flew straight to Japan to ensure that the time difference did not cause any problems. Those traveling to Japan from Britain left a little earlier to give themselves more time to adjust.”

Attack on Mercedes

Aston Martin itself will also bring a significant package of upgrades to Japan for the first time. ‘The AMR24 works as expected, and our competitiveness is as good as we thought. We found some areas where we had room for improvement after last season, and the AMR24 was a step forward in all areas. The car provides a good basis for further development, and we have a constant development plan with upgrades throughout the season.”

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Aston Martin chases Mercedes.

In Japan, Aston Martin hopes to take over fourth place among the manufacturers. Blandin explains how the AMR24 will be improved this weekend. “The upgrades in Suzuka are part of our development plan, which will include adjusting the floor, various aerodynamic parts and a new beam wing.”

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