Shortly after the last flight box was closed, the final clasp hammered home, the team departed Las Vegas for 24 hours of travel – 36 including the time difference – before being decanted in Abu Dhabi for one last dance. We’ve left the neon of Sin City behind for the bright lights of Yas Marina – a stunning location for a season finale. As the sun sets over the western grandstand the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix comes alive under the lights, with different strategies playing out, and the ever-present walls of the final sector waiting to catch out the unsuspecting.
Team Principal Mike Krack looks ahead to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and gives his thoughts on our first visit to Las Vegas, Felipe Drugovich stepping in for Fernando in FP1, and announcing Tina Hausmann as our F1 Academy driver.
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For the final time this season, this is Mike on…
The spectacle of Las Vegas
"I thought the Las Vegas Grand Prix was fantastic. They put on a great show, it was a credit to everyone involved in the preparation, and it set a new bar. I think the season has another highlight. They're all different: Suzuka is a highlight because it's a fantastic track with fantastic fans; Silverstone is a highlight because it embodies great tradition and has an enormous crowd – and is, of course, our home race; Monaco is historic; Monza is bursting at the seams with the passionate tifosi. These are all highlights and dropping in a new one is great.
"Las Vegas is glamour, celebrity and casinos. I'm not suggesting other races should follow the Las Vegas model because that wouldn't be right: Vegas isn't an ordinary city, and it can't have an ordinary Grand Prix. What it did was very good for Vegas. The opening ceremony was like the Super Bowl, but the crowd loved it and ultimately that's what matters.
"The best thing for us is that I have never seen so many people in green. From touchdown at the airport onwards, green caps and green T-shirts everywhere. This bodes well for the future as we try to bring fans closer to the sport and make it more accessible.
"There were also a lot of celebrities at the race. A lot of them, I didn't know – but trust me, that does not have any bearing on their level of fame!"
The race just gone
"The scheduling was tough on the teams – twice across the four days we worked all night and left in the morning – but for a first event, I thought it was excellent. Having a good result helps! 12 points was a good return for our efforts.
"The AMR23 was competitive in Vegas. Not in a position to fight for the podium but certainly competitive, and seeing both Lance and Fernando fight back to score points was gratifying. We had a bit of luck with the timing of the Safety Car – but I think we've had a lot of bad luck this year, so we were due this one to balance it out across the season. When it got us back in the game, you could see we were not losing positions. The Mercedes were a little quicker and passed us, but other than that, we looked good."
The race ahead
"There's plenty at stake this weekend in both championships, but we can't afford to ignore the bigger picture, so we'll be doing a normal programme of testing new parts, looking ahead to 2024. Practice and the post-race test, where we have a big programme, will help us learn as much as possible about the AMR23, which will be valuable knowledge to take into the winter.
"This weekend is about delivering. There are fights up and down both championships, almost everyone is embroiled in one fight or another. So, I think everyone will go all in."
"When it's all over, on Sunday evening, after the fireworks, we'll all get together and have a glass or two of something. It's always nice like that in Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina has a great paddock, less restrictive than elsewhere, and you walk in and out of other teams' areas. Not the garage or engineering office, obviously, but the hospitality units, with their decks and roof terraces, tend to be nice places to relax.
"Regardless of what happens in the Constructors' Championship, I'll go over to McLaren to congratulate its Team Principal Andrea Stella on a good, hard-fought season, though we'll probably meet halfway because he'll be on his way to us. And this is how it should be: flat out all year and then, when it's done, a handshake and a drink."
Felipe back in the car
"Felipe Drugovich was back in the car for FP1, subbing for Fernando. He's such a solid and robust driver, we don't pay any special attention to him in the run plan to his inclusion.
"I did apologise to him after his run at Monza back in September because, post-race, I realised I hadn't sat down with him early in the week to talk through his approach to the session. It just hadn't been an issue for me because I have full trust and confidence in his abilities. He took it quite well! We knew that he would jump in the car on Friday and deliver – and that's exactly what he did. He was quick, didn't take unnecessary risks and gave great feedback."
"The other drivers that have featured in conversation this week are Tina Hausmann and Jessica Hawkins. Tina has been announced as our 2024 F1 Academy driver, while Jessica becomes Aston Martin's Head of Racing for the F1 Academy and will mentor Tina.
"The F1 Academy is something we take very seriously. In motorsport, you have to rely on the talent of your drivers but making sure they maximise their potential is a great initiative. We're really excited to work with Tina, welcome her to the Aston Martin family, and accelerate her development."
Incredible support from fans
"Finally, as F1 prepares for a few months away from the track, it's traditional to field plenty of questions about the season just gone. We've had plenty of highs: Fernando's arrival; the energy in the team; moving into the AMR Technology Campus; the explosion in our fan base – happily, the list goes on.
"I'm being stopped in the airport or at breakfast now, just by people who are super-interested in what we are doing. This is new! We're in the spotlight because of the results we've delivered this year. This is by far our best season to date: eight podiums, 273 points and counting. There are always things to improve but zooming out to look at the bigger picture this year, it's something to be proud of. I'm certainly proud to be part of it.
"And I want to take this opportunity to thank you, our fans, for your support in this. It's pushed us on, the social comments and goodwill messages that we've received, seeing all the banners around the track, and at the race weekend events we've been to. This season is a long one, and whenever we feel support from our fans, it gives us that little push – a little bit more motivation. Your support makes doing our job even more rewarding, and for your help – for being part of our journey – we're very grateful."
Aston Martin F1 Team announces Tina Hausmann as its F1 Academy driverRead Now
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