While many dream of driving a Formula One car, few ever will. This is because not many people are capable of driving at that standard professionally, and fewer still can afford to run something as complex as a Formula One racer privately. While Aston Martin isn’t offering rides in the AMR21, it is giving the public a glimpse at a car everyone familiar with F1 knows well: the safety car.
The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition is modelled on the safety car provided for races, often seen leading the pack. It’s not a standard affair. Available in gloss or matte takes on Aston Martin Racing Green, Jet Black or Lunar White, with matte black graphics, it has 21in wheels, enhanced aerodynamics, modified suspension and steering, specially developed Pirelli tyres, a 25PS power boost, F1 badging and more. Cosmetically and mechanically, it is far from standard, and that’s before you step inside and head out to lead a pack of your own.
On approach, the aero additions add an extra element of aggression to proceedings. Opening the door, you get a flash of F1 as you step over the kickplate — in case you ever forget there’s something a little different here, the door sill and centre console will remind you with logos. Being an Aston Martin, every inch feels special. Every touchpoint excites. Each aspect of the cabin’s design gives your eyes something to dance over, savour and enjoy.
With your foot firmly planted on the brake, it takes a gentle button prod to fire its 4.0-litre V8 engine into life. A burst of noise followed by a burble reminds you that while turbocharging may have changed the way new cars sound these days, there are still great soundtracks out there.
There are three settings for both drivetrain and suspension, and each can be set independently of the other, allowing you to tailor your ride. Sport, Sport Plus and Track heighten the Vantage F1 Edition’s aggression incrementally, transforming the way the car feels. For pottering around town or villages with noise-tolerant residents, Sport is the best choice. Sport springs keep the ride supple, so the unsettledness that often plagues British roads doesn’t bother you on a cruise. With some gentle encouragement, however, you’ll find that performance isn’t blunted. Should you want to be, say, on the other side of a hill in the distance you needn’t worry. Squeeze the right pedal and its 4.0-litre 535PS V8 will send you, without a moment’s hesitation, but with a tart, shouty eight-cylinder soundtrack, where you want to go.
This is a Formula One-inspired car, and while playing on a B road is all well and good it would be criminal to let its track settings and track-developed aerodynamics go to waste. Thankfully, Aston Martin opened its test track, Stowe Circuit at Silverstone, to show off what the Vantage F1 Edition can truly do.
Aston Martin simply said “have fun”. That shows faith that the car will perform and impress in equal measure. Starting off in the car’s more road-biased Sport settings, there was a flurry of noise and excitement. On the flat, open circuit, you can feel the body lean far more keenly that it did on the road. Sport Plus impresses further, encouraging you to press on harder, shift later and brake deeper into corners. The full show, though, comes with everything set to Track. On the road its suspension set up would be too aggressive, but off it? It’s perfect.
The Vantage F1 Edition goes from dramatic cruiser to track monster at the press of a button. Where others in the track space can make driving to the circuit something of an ordeal, here you can be engaged, comfy and relaxed on the journey over, and utterly thrilled when you arrive. You don’t need a super licence, years of training and a 24/7 fitness regime to enjoy the Vantage F1 Edition as you would a Formula One car. Yet it still grants you a slice of the full-fat F1 experience. After all, the safety car is the one that leads the pack.
This story is an extract from an article featured in the AM48 issue of Aston Martin magazine, out now. If you're not already a subscriber, visit magazine.astonmartin.com/magazine-subscription so that you can read the full story.