Formula 1: Two teams that can't afford bad seasons in 2024

Aston Martin and Ferrari are two of the most prestigious car brands in the world. Their Formula 1 teams, however, are facing defining seasons in 2024.
Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, and Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Formula 1
Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, and Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Formula 1 / JOHN THYS/GettyImages

With 1,074 race starts, 243 victories, 249 pole positions, 807 podium finishes, 9,672 points scored, and above all, 16 world constructor championships, Ferrari are unquestionably the most historic and successful team to ever grace the Formula 1 circuit.

On the other hand, Aston Martin is a brand that only recently returned to the sport after leaving in 1960. They now operate a team that has been in Formula 1 since 1991. The Silverstone-based squad had first been named Jordan Grand Prix, before re-branding to Spyker, Force India, Racing Point, and then finally Aston Martin from 2021.

Aston Martin's results and overall history in Formula 1 may not be as decorated or impressive as Ferrari's, but they still have quite the reputation.

Since the start of the V6 era in particular, the team have consistently punched above their weight, simultaneously convincing superstar talents such as four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso to join the program.

While the history of the two teams couldn't be more different, Ferrari and Aston Martin find themselves in similar positions heading into 2024.

At various points throughout the 2023 season, both teams found themselves contending for podium finishes on a regular basis. However, both squads were polar opposites throughout most of their campaigns.

Aston Martin were, shockingly, the consensus second best team behind Red Bull for the first part of the season, scoring six podium finishes in the first eight races. Unfortunately for them, their pace fell off as the season went on, and they only scored two more podium finishes in the final 14 races, causing them to slip to fifth place in the constructor standings.

Ferrari, meanwhile, started 2023 slow, recording just two podium finishes in the first 11 races to follow up a rebound 2022 season. But they scored podium finishes in seven of the final 11 races, and in the Singapore Grand Prix, they became the only non-Red Bull race winners of the season, with Carlos Sainz Jr. taking the victory.

They were nearly able to rally for a second consecutive second place finish in the constructor standings, but Mercedes held on in the season finale.

Given the results of both Aston Martin and Ferrari last year, their overall branding, and in Aston Martin's case especially, their heightened levels of investment, anything short of winning for both squads will be a disappointment in 2024. But how likely is that to happen?

With how dominant Red Bull were in 2023, they have already been developing their 2024 machine for a long time, knowing that their championship was wrapped up well in advance of the end of the season.

On the other hand, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, and Aston Martin were all in a season-long dogfight for "best of the rest" supremacy, and they largely developed their 2023 cars right up until the season finale.

That, more than anything else, puts Red Bull and Max Verstappen in position to dominate again.

Ferrari and Aston Martin facing make or break seasons

With winning races, let alone a world championship, a longshot, both Ferrari and Aston Martin find themselves heading into make or break seasons in 2024.

Ferrari have not won a Formula 1 constructor championship since 2008. To put things into perspective, Verstappen, who was 11 years old that year, has as many wins since the start of 2022 (34) as Ferrari do since 2009.

While a 34-win total is far from poor, the goose-egg in their championship tally over the last decade and a half stands out. The Prancing Horse have been regular contenders, but they have never been able to put a full season together. In that time, they've had several decorated talents and world champions come and go, including Vettel and Alonso.

Charles Leclerc, dubbed as a future world champion by his own team chairman, is set to enter his sixth season with the team, while Sainz, also a proven race winner, is set to enter his fourth. Both drivers have been through the highs and lows of the team, and especially in 2023, began to show their frustration with the car and the organization itself.

Entering 2024, both drivers are in contract years. With Sainz already rumored to be looking at Audi, currently known as Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber, for 2026, the team cannot afford to also lose Leclerc, their ultimate prized possession. Another decent but otherwise underwhelming season from the Scuderia could spell serious trouble for 2025, as Leclerc's contract is also up after 2024.

Aston Martin, as mentioned, started 2023 with extreme highs, and ended it with a series of downs. The team came into the season with a car that was fast, easy to drive, and best of all, soft on its tires, but all of that advantage went away come the middle of the year.

The worst part wasn't even losing out in the development race by a longshot. Rather, the worst part of their downfall was that nobody in the team knew why, nor how, they fell so far behind.

The team brought various updates to the AMR23 throughout the season, but they never saw any significant improvements. Both the drivers and the team mentioned several times that they couldn't understand why they couldn't achieve any gains in performance with the new parts. Sometimes, it even seemed that the updates made the car slower.

Aston Martin: Contenders or pretenders in 2024?

Looking beyond the name that has only been back in Formula 1 for the last three years, this is an operation that, aside from 2023, has either been a backmarker or a midfield competitor for 30 years.

Half a season of finishing on the podium doesn't carve Aston Martin's status as a top team in stone. Rather, it writes it in sidewalk chalk, much of which has already been washed away.

Like the Ferrari duo, Aston Martin's premier driver, Alonso, is also in a contract year, and at the age of 42. If the team don't show any improvement, or worse, take a step back, Alonso will be looking elsewhere, most likely retirement. Losing him would be catastrophic, especially if they can't attract another top-tier driver to partner the already very inconsistent Lance Stroll.

Yes, there will be plenty of other options to replace him, given the crazy 2024 silly season that is being projected. But will drivers really find Aston Martin an attractive option if they slip back into the midfield?

Ferrari and Aston Martin both have generational talents in their cars. Drivers such as Leclerc and Alonso don't come around often, and consequently, they are infinitely valuable.

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But if either team fails to meet and exceed expectations in 2024, they risk losing the very talents that have most contributed to their success in recent years.