► Aston Martin returns after 60 years
► Powered and inspired by Mercedes
► Lance Stroll and Sebastien Vettel to drive
Aston Martin is back in Formula 1 after an absence of more than 60 years. The return is mostly down to Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll; for the last few years he’s played Monopoly with both F1 teams and road car makers – and now he’s effectively building hotels.
After buying Aston Martin’s road car division and the Racing Point team, Stroll has brought one of motorsport’s biggest names back to F1 – and placed his son Lance beside four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the hotseats. Stroll Sr is essentially the Thanos of the automotive industry at this point.
‘I’ve dreamed about this day for a very long time,’ said Stroll Sr. ‘I’ve always been a car guy and I’ve always loved racing, too. My first dream was to own a Formula 1 team. My second dream was to acquire a significant shareholding in Aston Martin Lagonda. Today is about the merging of those two dreams. So, as I say, today is all about dreams, and it shows that dreams really can come true, in the shape of our new AMR21.’
Tell me about the car
A quirk of Formula 1 means the new Aston Martin team can trace its DNA all the way back to Jordan – not Gaydon – and the outfit’s new challenger looks most related to last year’s Mercedes car anyway.
Based on last year’s Racing Point – which itself was based on Mercedes-AMG’s 2019 challenger – the AMR21 benefits from several pieces of the all-conquering car. The new Aston features a 2021 Mercedes powertrain – like some of its road cars – and the Aston Martin also benefits from the reigning champion’s rear suspension.
Still, the new Aston may actually be slower than last year’s Racing Point, because of new aero regulations designed to cut speed and save the Pirelli tyres – which are also new this year. The result should be less downforce, less grip and slower lap times, though it’s only a matter of time before teams claw the performance back.
Interestingly, the pictures supplied by the team don’t show the rear of the car – where most of the development will focus on the new cars. However, they do include the new car’s brake ducts – and area of controversy for last year’s challenger, which saw the team deducted 15 Constructors’ points, and fined €400,000 (£356,000).
How will they do?
With a similar car to last year, relatively stable regulations and a Mercedes engine plugged in the back, the AMR21 should be good straight away – which moves the spotlight over to its drivers.
Lance Stroll may have benefitted from less pressure to get results than his counterparts, but he’s clearly got talent. Quick in the wet – usually a sign of innate ability – Stroll Jr has displayed flashes of brilliance; the 22-year-old got pole in Turkey last year along with two podiums. And before that, he dragged the 2017 Williams to a podium and also qualified second at the Italian GP of the same year.
Incredibly more questions hover over the team’s other driver, Sebastien Vettel. Despite winning four championships, the German’s stock isn’t what it used to be. After fumbling the title in 2017 and 2018, Vettel’s had a slow decline – and was regularly beaten by his team-mate Leclerc in 2020.
However, it’s possible we’ll see a new Vettel in 2021. With the support of a new team behind him and a car with a planted rear end – like the Red Bull he won his titles in – the German could make the biggest comeback the sport has seen in a while.
We’ll know more by the end of the month: the 2021 season kicks off in earnest with the Bahrain Grand Prix on 28 March 2021.