The new Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team marks the first appearance in Formula 1 for the celebrated British marque since it competed in the 1959 and 1960 seasons. At that time, Aston Martin built the entire car and engine and fielded the team at the track. This time around, Aston Martin has partnered with the Red Bull Racing team, winner of this season’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. Red Bull Racing won four consecutive world championships from 2010 through 2013 and has won 56 races since the team’s launch in 2005.
Last season, drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen combined for three wins and the duo earned a baker’s dozen podium finishes to demonstrate the team’s consistent strength. Aston Martin is similarly on the move, and 2017’s announcement of the stunning mid-engined Valkyrie hypercar demonstrated that F1 technology can be applied to a road-legal machine. Indeed, Red Bull Chief Technical Officer, Adrian Newey, continues to play a major role in the Valkyrie’s project.
The marriage is a perfect match for both parties, as it brings Aston Martin back into motor sport’s top category for the first time in nearly six decades, a union that will raise the profile of the brand around the world. The relationship also provides benefits for Red Bull, with the Valkyrie being the first example of how Aston Martin Red Bull Racing can connect Red Bull Racing’s F1 know-how to road cars. The Red Bull brand is well regarded, not just for its racing but also for its global involvement in action sports; an association with Aston Martin’s long-standing reputation as a purveyor of highly desirable cars is a welcome one.
“Racing forms part of the original DNA of the company and this partnership reinforces the message,” says Aston Martin’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Andy Palmer. “It’s in the name. Lionel Martin built and raced his car up Aston Hill, so it’s always been part of what we are. Extending our association with, and renaming the team to Aston Martin Red Bull Racing is about seeding the soil for the future.”
It's a great partnership because Aston Martin is an iconic brand with a great legacy and history
The Valkyrie will be the first product to benefit. “It’s about creating the fastest mid-engine car ever,” Palmer says, “but it also creates a fertile ground for when we launch our first core mid-engine car in 2021.” This eagerly awaited machine will build on the Red Bull Racing collaboration, ensuring that the car is world class when it arrives.
“I think it is a great partnership because Aston Martin is an iconic brand with a
great legacy and history, and an exciting future,” says Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner. “By partnering, we can help bring a new dimension to the brand by introducing F1 technology to its products.” The partners are currently hard at work developing the Valkyrie, alongside much more secretive work on the mid-engined machine. “For future cars, there will be a lineage to the Valkyrie,” Horner notes. “It will have performance that I think will be unrivalled.”
The Valkyrie has sparked exceptional interest from the team’s drivers, whose day job could conceivably leave them rather jaded at the notion of a hyper-performance road car. “Our current drivers both bought the car,” says Horner. “It is unusual for racing drivers to spend their own money!” he adds. “Also, there are former drivers like David Coulthard who have placed orders. It has been great to see the project come to life.”
Palmer’s vision was initially controversial, but it prevailed because of his ability to communicate it without embellishment, according to Horner. “Andy is a straightforward guy,” he says, before bestowing the greatest compliment a racer can give: “He’s a racer at heart. He’s got great vision. I think the job he’s done at Aston Martin the past few years is tremendous.” It might seem convenient that Horner appears such an ardent Aston Martin convert, but in fact he already owned an iconic DB5, which he says he bought a few years ago. And as a reward for the team’s first world championship, Horner and Newey both purchased Aston Martin V12 Vantages.
I’ve always been a fan of the Aston Martin brand and it is great to see it being revitalised
Of course, Horner’s connections at Aston Martin have given him access to some of the company’s contemporary models. “I currently drive a DB11,” he says. “It is grand touring at its best. And the Vantage is a great-looking car, I’m looking forward to driving it.”
The 2018 season is going well for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, but this year’s RB14 car is powered by 1.6-litre, turbo-charged hybrid engine branded by TAG Heuer, rather than an Aston Martin power unit. The company is contemplating whether future F1 regulations might create the right conditions for it to enter as an engine manufacturer in 2021, when the sport will adopt a new set of regulations governing the engines and the cost to compete. “Formula 1 is a sport with a rich history,” Chase Carey, Chairman and CEO at Formula 1, said recently. “We want to preserve, protect and enhance that history by unleashing F1’s potential, by putting our fans at the heart of a more competitive and more exciting sport.
We are driven by one desire: to create the world’s leading sporting brand. Fan-centred, commercially successful, profitable for our teams, and with technological innovation at its heart.”
To broaden its appeal and improve the relationship between road and race car, F1 is proposing for 2021 that the hybrid-electric gasoline and battery-powered drivetrain in F1 cars must be cheaper, simpler, louder and have more power than those in today’s cars, which participants say are too expensive and many fans judge to be short on charisma. By simplifying these power units, there is the expectation that race-spoiling penalties for inevitable engine replacements will be reduced.The sport also insists that to remain relevant to the road cars of the 2020s, any new power unit regulations must stipulate a hybrid-electric system. They will not, however, mandate standardised power units, but will allow manufacturers to build unique and original units to differentiate themselves. F1 also acknowledges that the new rules must be attractive for new entrants and that customer teams must have access to equivalent performance to factory-backed outfits. While there will be some standardisation of components, car differentiation must remain a core value, it says.
These statements of direction fit well with Aston Martin’s hopes for potential involvement as a power unit supplier to the team. “I would say that the draft regulations put together by the [motorsport governing body] FIA are broadly acceptable to us,” says Palmer. “In other words, they are most definitely going in the right direction. And they are drafted in a way that I believe puts more control back with the driver and less with the electronic brain, which is what F1 is all about.”
Indeed, preliminary indications are that the rules are heading in the right direction for increased future participation by Aston Martin. “These prospective changes support many of the requirements needed for Aston Martin to enter the sport as an engine supplier,” Palmer says. “We will continue to progress with our internal research programme and move closer to forming a final decision on Aston Martin’s future involvement. This is a very positive step in the right direction.”
It is a direction that could see the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing partnership carry both companies further than either could have gone alone. “I’ve always been a fan of the brand and it is great to see it being revitalised,” says Horner. “If we are able to assist in that, then it is an honour.”