Owner Lawrence Stroll has set his Aston Martin Formula 1 team the target of becoming world champions.
Canadian billionaire Stroll has renamed his Racing Point outfit after the historic British car brand.
The team have also signed four-time champion Sebastian Vettel for 2021.
“My aim with this, like the other businesses I’ve owned, is to win,” Stroll told BBC Sport in an interview to mark the official launch of Aston Martin F1.
Stroll added that it was also his ambition for his son Lance, who drives for the team, to become world champion.
In a rare and extensive interview, the 61-year-old, who made his fortune in the fashion industry, discussed:
- Why he believes Aston Martin will become a major force in F1
- His confidence in Vettel despite the German’s difficult final year with Ferrari in 2020
- His belief in his son as a leading talent
- How he ended up as owner of an F1 team and boss of one of the world’s leading car brands.
Aiming for the world title
Lawrence Stroll bought Racing Point in 2018 after it went into administration in its former guise as Force India, and decided to rename it as Aston Martin after taking over the British car company in January last year. Aston Martin last raced in F1 in 1960.
The team finished fourth in the constructors’ championship in 2020 and won its first Grand Prix, thanks to former driver Sergio Perez, at the Sakhir race in Bahrain. The Mexican was not retained for 2021 but has moved to Red Bull.
Stroll said a combination of his investment in the team, recruitment of more staff, reorganisation of the business, the budget cap being introduced to F1 this year and new technical rules coming for 2022 made it a “very realistic” aim to become world champions in the future.
“F1 is a process that takes years to be successful; it is not an overnight thing, but no business is built overnight,” Stroll said.
“This will be the same. I want to continue where we finished last year, only stronger.
“We had several podiums, we had a win. I’d like this year to have several more podiums and another win or two – step by step fighting for more and more wins.”
Stroll said the team’s new technical collaborator and title sponsor, the US computing giant Cognizant, was equipping the new factory being built at their Silverstone base with the latest technology in artificial intelligence and data analysis, adding that the relationship was “digitally transforming” and “a new world for us”.
Stroll said he had challenged team principal Otmar Szafnauer and technical director Andrew Green to assess if the team could become world champions while continuing with their policy of buying their gearbox and some other parts, including aspects of the suspension, from Mercedes in addition to engines.
“I said: ‘We have the new rules coming in for 2022, we are here to win, it’s why I’m here, it’s why we’re all here, but I have the ability to give us the resources we need to win,” he added. “What would we do if anything differently in order to become world champions?’
“And Andy said: ‘My initial answer is I don’t think I would change a whole lot.'”
Stroll said he believed the key performance differentiator in F1 would remain aerodynamics, and that the new spending limits would “play into our hands” because, unlike the big teams such as Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, Aston Martin did not have to downsize to meet them.
Confidence in Vettel
Vettel joins Aston Martin after a disappointing final year at Ferrari, in which he was comprehensively outperformed by team-mate Charles Leclerc and remained vulnerable to the errors that have plagued his campaigns since 2017.
But Stroll said he was confident the 33-year-old, who was told his contract would not be renewed by Ferrari even before the 2020 season had started, could recover his best form at his new home.
“Sebastian had a very challenging year last year,” he said.
“All of us would find it challenging that you lose your job before the season starts. That’s mentally very difficult, and you know how mental a game F1 is for drivers.
“He had a car he found tricky to drive that didn’t suit his driving style. We’ve seen that before in his last year at Red Bull [in 2014].
“But he’s a four-time world champion. I don’t think he forgot how to drive in one year. He has a work ethic that is known as second to none in the paddock in terms of how hard he works.
“One of the ways we are going to be world champions is to get my guys to think and act like world champions. And how you do that is bring a four-time world champion into the team.
“He is going to take the team in a direction of leading us to where ultimately we want to be.
“I am not concerned. I know Sebastian well, and I have 100% confidence and belief he will do a fantastic job with us. He is more motivated than he has ever been.”
Belief in Lance as future world champion
Stroll said his moves to buy Racing Point and take over Aston Martin were independent business decisions.
Now he runs both, he said, “the two together make magic”, adding: “The best way to market Aston Martin is through owning its own F1 team; that’s when the picture became clear.”
He said he believed Aston Martin could ultimately make his son world champion because Lance had proven his “talent and ability”.
Stroll said: “Lance’s performance on track last year for a 21-year-old was extremely impressive – there was the pole in Turkey, when we all know in the wet it is more about the driver than the car, leading the race for 30 laps until part of the front wing broke.
“There were two podiums and some bad luck – a tyre blew at Mugello – that would have been another podium.
“At 21, he did a stellar job, an incredible job. I wish him, like any father would wish any son, the best he could possibly do, as long as it makes him happy – that’s what counts.
“Last year we had a good car. This year we will have a different level of excitement and motivation because of Aston Martin.
“We’ve got more people, we have the new factory coming, it’s all exciting but his performance on track last year demonstrated he has the ability to perform very well.”