A move into Formula 1 racing by Midland sports car manufacturer Aston Martin could turbo-charge technology development and help the company become more competitive, an industry expert has said.
The luxury sports car maker is rumoured to be contemplating a return to Formula 1 racing for the first time in 55 years as part of the sports carmaker’s revitalisation under its new boss Andy Palmer.
Reports said the Warwickshire manufacturer was discussing a return to Formula 1 as early as next season, in a tie-up with Red Bull that would result in the team using Mercedes engines.
And it was also suggested that the Gaydon-based firm had had discussions with Williams and Force India as part of a process to evaluate its potential return to Formula 1.
Speculation since then has suggested a partnership with a team other than Red Bull is more likely, as Mercedes, which has a five per cent stake in Aston Martin, would be unlikely to want to supply engines to its main Formula 1 competitor.
A deal with Williams, Force India or Lotus – all of whom use Mercedes engines – is thought to be more likely.
Autosport suggested Mercedes had approved such a tie-up and if a deal were done it would see Aston Martin branding on the car’s airbox, with Mercedes recognised as the official engine supplier.
Aston Martin told the Post it had no comment to make on the rumours and described them as “pure speculation”, while refusing to comment further.
Mr Palmer, the firm’s chief executive, in a recent interview at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone said: “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.”
Speaking to the Post, Andrew Noakes, a Midland-based author and academic who has written several books on Aston Martin, said he thought a Red Bull deal was unlikely.
He said: “Mercedes has a small financial stake in Aston Martin and is supplying the company with engines and electrical systems for its next generation of road cars. That’s good news, because it should make Astons more competitive and keep them more up to date with developing technology – something Aston couldn’t afford to do on its own.
“Mercedes probably wouldn’t want to supply Formula 1 engines to a team like Red Bull, one of their biggest rivals.
“If Aston Martin returns to Formula 1 with rebadged Mercedes engines they would be more likely to power one of the other teams – perhaps Williams, which uses Mercedes engines already.”
As to whether it would be a good move for Aston Martin, Mr Noakes said the car-maker would have to enjoy success on the track, which would be no mean feat in the highly-competitive field of Formula 1.
He added: “Formula 1 would be a good promotional tool for Aston Martin but only if it was seen winning.
“It’s hardly likely to do that against the works Mercedes team which has proved so dominant over the last couple of years, when at best it will have the same engines they do.”
Aston Martin currently competes in other areas of motor racing, though involvement in the glamorous world of Formula 1 is still seen by many carmakers as the ‘holy grail’ of motor sport.
“Aston Martin has been prominent in sports car racing and although that isn’t as high profile as Formula 1 it has suited the brand well, because there is a clear connection between the road cars and the racing machines,” said Mr Noakes.
“Aston has had some success in the lower classes – though its attempts at the top-level LMP1 class were thwarted by Audi’s dominance.”
Any return to Formula 1 would be seen as a momentous move for a company that last competed 55 years ago. It only competed for a short time in 1959 and 1960 and after achieving little, if any, success bowed out.