Aston Martin aims to be a Formula 1 title contender in three to five years by becoming the most efficient team in the championship’s budget-cap era.
The former Racing Point squad has rebranded as Aston Martin’s official works team courtesy of its common ownership of consortiums led by Lawrence Stroll, and the team signed four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to lead the first year of its new identity.
Racing Point became a race-winner last season, aided by a controversial decision to replicate the title-winning aerodynamic concept on Mercedes’ 2019 car. But it fell short in its quest for third place in the constructors’ championship after being narrowly pipped by McLaren.
Stroll has bold ambitions for the team he rescued from administration to grow into a championship-contending force, and team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes Aston Martin will be able to progress to that level relatively swiftly.
He pointed to the team’s planned relocation to a brand new purpose-built factory late next year as a major element in that journey.
The benefits of that new facility will play no part in Aston Martin’s preparation for major new technical rules next year, which create potential for the pecking order to shift significantly, but it forms an important long-term part of Stroll’s vision for the team.
“It’s a lot easier to say we’re going to be fighting and winning a world championship than actually doing it,” Szafnauer said.
“The two things that have to happen is we need a good plan in order for us to start today to get to world championship contenders. Then we’ve got to execute.
“We’re in the midst of that planning now. The execution will definitely take some time.
“People in Formula 1 and other teams have said you’ve got to give us three to five years to do so. And we’re no different.
“We’ve for the last year planned a new factory with new infrastructure in a place to house all of us under one roof to grow the team, and the implementation of that has just now begun at Silverstone. And towards the end of 2022 we should be moving into a new factory.
“Within that factory, we’re going to need state of the art tools that will help us design and develop a car that’s worthy of contending for a world championship.
“That’s a few years away. If I have to look into the future, it’ll be in the three to five year time period.”
To achieve that, Aston Martin will need to defeat its engine and parts supplier Mercedes, which has won every championship since 2014, dominating the V6 turbo-hybrid engine era.
“Formula 1 is changing, so maybe you don’t need those three to five years anymore” :: Sebastian Vettel
Ferrari, Renault and two different Honda works teams – McLaren and Red Bull have failed to mount a sustained challenge, while Aston Martin appears to have no intention to move away from its Mercedes technical relationship that leaves it an engine customer but also reliant on year-old components like the suspension and gearbox.
But technical director Andrew Green believes it is right to pursue this model as it allows the team to do a better job on other areas such as aerodynamics.
“We are a team that is focused on performance,” he said. “To have the reduced noise of not doing our own gearbox and gearbox casing for me, at the moment, for where we are, helps in that.
“It allows us to focus on the areas that we believe will give the performance of the car.
“I don’t have any doubts that where we are at the moment is the right strategy.
Part of this philosophy is driven by F1’s new $145m budget cap, which slashes the budget for the likes of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. That means Aston Martin can compete on the same financial level as its opponents and puts an emphasis on finding efficiencies.
In its previous life as Force India, the team’s identity prior to Stroll’s takeover, this operation was F1’s most cost-effective, twice finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship on a fraction of its immediate rivals’ budgets.
Instead of punching above its weight, Aston Martin believes it will now simply strike a heavier blow.
“These things don’t happen overnight,” Green said of becoming a title-fighting team. “They take a lot of planning.
“The regulatory ground is changing as we’ve moved into a cost cap era and we’re only now finding out how best we could operate, not only now but in the future.
“And that’s playing a big part in our planning. That’s all new to us as well, it’s new for everybody.
“So that’s an area we’re taking a big, long, hard look at and planning for the future so we can be the most efficient team in a cost-cap era.”
Aston Martin’s potential was a key part in attracting Ferrari exile Vettel. He viewed the team as the best long-term bet to emerge from F1’s midfield, after losing his Ferrari drive and having no opportunity to join either Mercedes or Red Bull.
Vettel’s move is an attempt at rehabilitation for the 2010-13 world champion as well after his reputation tumbled in his final two years at Ferrari.
That began with the arrival of Charles Leclerc toppling him as team leader and continued with a 2020 season that was awful even in the context of Ferrari’s downturn in form.
However, Vettel appears liberated by his Ferrari exit and buoyed by the motivation of a fresh project at Aston Martin – where he will seek to assert himself as the undisputed team leader alongside the fast but inconsistent Stroll.
He believes another title is “in me” and he will treat it as a “longer-term project” to win again – and compared the team’s projected timeline to that of Mercedes, which rejoined the F1 grid in 2010 but was a sporadic podium finisher until 2013 and won its first title after major new rules were introduced in 2014.
“If you look at Mercedes, they really got into the winning ways with a new power unit where they just got off the gates a lot faster than anyone else,” said Vettel.
“But the car wasn’t really that great in 2014 chassis-wise. It took them another five years to really build a car that was also considered probably the best chassis.
“Everybody has that time, and not everybody has done the job. There’s a lot of projects going around, different manufacturers. And in the end, Mercedes has been the one that’s been the strongest.
“So, hats off to them and the others were just not good enough.
“Formula 1 is changing, so maybe you don’t need those three to five years anymore. Maybe it will shrink.
“The hope for everyone is to be closer to the top and not just be on the podium because you were lucky that the guys in the front retired or crashed.
“We’ll see how Formula 1 changes in the next few years. Age-wise, I think I still have a long time in me.”