I ought to be clear that the story linking Aston Martin, Red Bull Racing and Mercedes in Formula 1, which broke on the eve of the British Grand Prix on Saturday, was a collaborative effort with the team at autosport.com, with the balance of credit belonging to them.
In particular, it hinges around one source who cannot be named today lest his identity be uncovered, but who deserves full recognition if the deal comes off in the fulness of time.
But what a story it is: in simple terms we are linking Aston Martin to a deal that would put their logo back on a Formula 1 car for the first time since 1960 and lead to a sensational switch from Renault to Mercedes AMG power units for the Red Bull Racing team.
Inevitably, our story made quite an impact and caught the Formula 1 paddock off-guard, prompting many to denounce it without bothering to dig too hard. For the benefit of them, and hopefully for you, here’s some context.
The story first came together around the Goodwood Festival of Speed a week ago. Strictly speaking, it’s not new news; Formula 1 correspondent Joe Saward – formerly of this parish – had been hinting at a deal involving Aston Martin and a Mercedes-engined team since late last year. But we had good reason to believe the deal had taken a big step towards reality.
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.