Mercedes owns 5% of Aston Martin, and has a technical partnership with it
Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer has confirmed he would be open to a deal that would bring the brand back to Formula 1 for the first time since 1960.
Palmer was present at last weekend's British Grand Prix, and told autosport.com: "The paddock is always full of rumours. We have to explore ways of getting Aston Martin's name known around the world and we currently use the World Endurance Championship principally to do that.
"My job is to concentrate on turning Aston Martin around. If something drops into our lap and if suddenly those stars align, would I consider it? Yes."
Autocar and Autosport revealed at the weekend that Aston Martin is in talks over a deal to become a brand partner with four-time world champion Red Bull Racing in exchange for brokering a deal for the team to run the championship winning Mercedes-Benz F1 engine. An Aston Martin spokesman declined to comment on the potential deal when contacted by Autocar.
Aston Martin is 5% owned by Mercedes and competed in F1 for just two seasons, in 1959 and 1960, with very limited success.
Under the deal Mercedes would be recognised as the official engine partner of Red Bull Racing, but Aston Martin would become a technical partner and have branding on the cars, most likely around the air box that sits over the engine.
The deal was reported to have the blessing of Mercedes at board level - although senior F1 personnel have moved to quash this in the wake of Autocar's article. Reports had suggested senior Mercedes board members are eager to run more customer teams to offset the costs of its investment in F1. Because Mercedes does not consider Aston Martin to be a competitor for road car sales, despite their strategic partnership, it was aid to be viewed as an ideal partner for the project.
When asked his thoughts on a potential deal ahead of the British Grand Prix on Sunday, Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said: "We must be open-minded. Our number one objective is to win the world championship. At the moment I would say I cannot see a situation of us supplying an engine to our number one enemy - but maybe we need to recalibrate who our number one enemy is tomorrow and next year."
Although Wolff maintained no talks have yet commenced, he told Autosport the door was "open". "There are no discussions ongoing, nothing has been started, but you need to consider all the options," he said. "I'm leaving the door open."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, meanwhile, refused to dismiss the prospect of a Mercedes tie-in in the future. He told Autosport: "The fact is, we have a contract with Infiniti and Renault until the end of 2016. Anything beyond that is pure speculation. Last week it was Ferrari, this week it's Aston Martin, next week it will probably be Honda or Lamborghini. We have a contract and commitment with Infiniti, a very good relationship with Infiniti, and anything beyond the end of 2016 is purely speculative."
Speculation has also linked Aston Martin to a sponsorship deal with Mercedes-powered teams Williams and Force India, however a Red Bull deal is said to be their preferred option.
Asked whether he had at least spoken to Aston about a deal, Horner again declined the opportunity to quash the speculation, replying: "I speak to lots of people."
F1 insiders have drawn parallels with the deal that allows Lotus to run Mercedes engines at present despite the potential conflict with the road car manufacturer of the same name.
The deal is understood to have been instigated by Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer and Aston Martin's director of marketing and communications Simon Sproule, both of whom were credited for the long-term sponsorship deal that has put Infiniti branding on the Red Bull Racing cars, despite the team being powered by Renault engines. Infiniti is the upmarket brand of Nissan, which is in an alliance with Renault.
Red Bull Racing has a contract to compete with Renault engines until the end of 2016, but the championship-winning relationship has soured over the past 18 months as the French firm has struggled to match the pace of Mercedes.
Last month, Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz appeared to be trying to force a split with Renault when he claimed in an interview that Renault’s inability to improve its pace was “destroying” his enjoyment of F1. The comments are understood to have caused severe ructions between the two sides, and have been widely interpreted as Mateschitz trying to find a way out of his contract with the firm.