Between Goodwood and last Saturday evening we tried to put the jigsaw of facts and fiction together. Then, as now, there were an awful lot of pieces that needed to come together to make the story a reality - but at every turn there was confirmation that the parties involved were set on a path to at least trying to find a way to make it happen.
I’ve no doubt there are agendas at play; there always are in F1. To reach the end goal requires some significant shifting of legally binding contracts, let alone positions and posturing. But, in case you missed it, the story we wrote says only that the parties are talking about such a deal - not that it has been done.
I am still confident in the story’s claims that Aston Martin is willing to discuss having its name on a Mercedes-powered car, that Mercedes is willing to let that happen and that Red Bull Racing is very open to the possibility of Mercedes power. Three clear statements - although not, I must admit, necessarily adding up to to a Mercedes-powered Red Bull with Aston Martin backing.
There is fog around the positions of the Mercedes Grand Prix team and the wider Mercedes-Benz senior management. I sense that the idea of Aston sponsoring Williams, Lotus or Force India may be more palatable to the F1 personnel than the idea of putting an engine in a Red Bull, which Aston then happens to sponsor.
Originally, I’d been assured that senior Mercedes board members (i.e. the ones who pay the bills) were comfortable with the idea of an Aston Martin and Red Bull tie-up. Subsequently, though, I’ve been assured that they would only make a decision on that in consultation with Toto Wolff, a shareholder and CEO of the F1 team, as well as the man who runs all Mercedes-Benz motorsport activities, and Niki Lauda, who has a non-executive position on the board of Mercedes High Performance Powertrains.
That’s an intriguing dynamic in itself and one into which I don’t have any insight, although I would say that, in my experience, racing folk almost without fail significantly over-estimate their power within the parent company by a significant margin.
Now, to set the record straight. Firstly, I’ve been accused of being played by Aston Martin, with the claim going that they planted the story with me to make some headlines around the British Grand Prix.
I’m not into revealing sources, but I see no harm in saying that Aston Martin made no comments to me, other than responding when I put the story to them. Tellingly, I think, they didn’t deny it but instead stated they had no comment to make - as published in our story.
Second, after the story broke Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff told the press that we had claimed the deal would result in the powerplants being branded as Aston Martin units - something he made a point of saying would never happen, and which came across to me as a means of discrediting the story. At no point did we make this claim - we have always been clear that the engines would be Mercedes units, but that the cars would carry Aston Martin branding.
To be fair to Wolff, however, we did not specifically run the story past him or members of his team before publishing it. The team at Silverstone asked only if Mercedes would be prepared to consider a broader deal with Aston Martin branding, which they confirmed they would. It is fair to say the Red Bull angle may have been a twist that Wolff was not expecting.