Aston Martin’s return to Formula 1 this year, for the first time since a brief and ill-starred cameo in 1960, hasn’t exactly been a raging success. Last season, as Racing Point, the team fought McLaren all year for best-of-the-rest honours behind Mercedes-AMG and Red Bull, losing that battle for third in the teams’ standings but at least winning a grand prix, thanks to Sergio Pérez in Bahrain.
Now regenerated in Aston Martin green, the team has four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in place of Pérez, but it has slipped down the grid. It has placed the blame on a winter aerodynamic rules change that robbed its car (and that of Mercedes, with which it’s in close alliance) of vital downforce.
After the Hungarian Grand Prix, Aston Martin is only seventh in the teams’ standings, 115 points down on fourth-placed McLaren despite sharing the same Mercedes-Benz powertrain. Vettel is 12th in the drivers’ points, but he at least banked a surprise second at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix (and repeated the feat at the Hungaroring, only to be disqualified over a technical infringement), while young teammate Lance Stroll has a quartet of eighth-place finishes this year. After the hype, it has been underwhelming.
Lance’s father, Lawrence Stroll, the Canadian billionaire who led a consortium buyout of Aston Martin last year, is chairman of the firm, in control of both the F1 team and the road car division, which is going through its own regeneration.
The 62-year-old is a familiar figure at grands prix, as a racing dad as much as a high-profile team boss, but tends to avoid contact with the media, leaving CEO Otmar Szafnauer as the public face of Aston Martin in F1. But just before the team’s home race, he broke his own rule by welcoming a grilling from the F1 press corps.
His answers offered a snapshot of his hopes, frustrations and determined conviction that the grand old British brand can finally become a serious player at the pinnacle of motorsport. As he explained, he isn’t investing millions to keep on losing.