Aston’s big F1 adventure
CLOSER TIES with RED BULL NOW; ENGINE PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
ASTON MARTIN DOESN’T exactly have a glittering track record in Formula 1, but it does have great ambitions at the highest level of motorsport. And those ambitions are slowly taking tangible form in the shape of an ever-closer partnership with Red Bull Racing.
A technical partnership between the two is already bearing fruit in the form of the Valkyrie hypercar. And, for 2018, Aston Martin has become the title sponsor of the Red Bull F1 team. But in future years it may be far more than just the Aston name that features on the grid.
Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer has gone on record as saying that Aston will ‘probably’ enter F1 as an engine supplier in 2021 – if proposals to reduce costs are adopted by the sport’s governing body.
The plans for a new engine formula from 2021 are aimed at opening the sport up to more engine builders and car companies, while increasing relevance to road cars. The plan is to retain a 1.6-litre V6 turbo hybrid, but remove the part of the hybrid that recovers energy from the turbo and mutes the sound. The engines will also be allowed to run 3000rpm faster to improve their sound. If Aston does build an engine – either by itself or with Cosworth – it would help position it as a direct competitor to Mclaren and Ferrari in the market for mid-engined supercars, the first of which is currently in development.
But that’s for the future. Last year saw major changes in F1, introducing wider, faster and more dramatic cars. Despite a strong finish to the season, with Max Verstappen winning two of the last six races, Red Bull was often off the pace with its underpowered Renault engine. For 2018, the team has what’s said to be a vastly improved Renault V6, which it hopes will put it back in title contention with Mercedes and Ferrari.
The new RB14 – an evolution of last year’s RB13 – had an early outing for a pre-season filming session at Silverstone in mid-february. Perhaps not surprisingly, track conditions were less than ideal, and it was later reported that Vertsappen’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo had crashed the car during the session.
But Ricciardo declared himself more than happy with his first go in the new car. ‘It’s always hard to tell from a few laps but the initial feeling is good. It’s not doing anything that scares me and I can already feel that the rear of the car feels pretty settled, even in these poor conditions. Those are encouraging early signs.’
The car was wearing a special livery for the filming session, not the paint scheme it will wear when the season starts, but the actual lines and shapes are there to stay, including the mandatory new ‘halo’ designed to protect drivers in an accident. Driver opinion has been split on the new device, but Ricciardo said it caused him no problems. ‘I can see fine,’ he said. ‘It’s a small challenge, but we’ll get over it.’
The season starts with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, March 23-25.
Left and below The Aston Martin name will be on the F1 grid this year as title sponsor of the Red Bull team: this is the new RB14, complete with driver ‘halo’ but not yet in its full race livery. Daniel Ricciardo (below) will team up with Max Verstappen once again