Aston Martin may expand its role in Formula One by supplying engines for the series, which is billed as the world’s most prestigious form of racing. Aston’s decision will depend on changes to engine regulations slated to take effect in 2021, but several teams are already showing interest, according to Motorsport.com.
While Aston doesn’t have much of a history in Formula One, joining the fray as an engine supplier could give the series a much-needed shakeup. Since F1 adopted its current hybrid powertrain rules in 2014, Mercedes-Benz has dominated the racing, with Ferrari and Renault struggling to keep up, and Honda humiliating itself with underpowered and unreliable engines. The 2021 rules change offers an opportunity for a reset, and adding a new player could further alter the status quo and make things a bit less predictable.
Aston will become Red Bull Racing’s title sponsor in 2018, part of an existing relationship with the team that includes development of the Valkyrie supercar. Red Bull is dissatisfied with the reliability of its current Renault engines, so an engine-supply deal with Aston seems like a logical arrangement. But Motorsport.com reports that other teams are also interested in Aston engines, although it did not name any specifically.
Andy Palmer, Aston’s CEO, said he was “encouraged” by the direction 2021 engine-rule talks are taking. While not finalized, the new rules are expected to retain the current hybrid powertrain format, but make the powertrains a bit less complex. Roping in a new engine supplier would be a coup for F1, but Aston will have to be careful not to bite off more than it can chew.
A more active role in F1 could help Aston sell more cars, but only if teams using its engines actually win races. Just developing the expensive F1 powertrain will be a tall order for a small company like Aston, and there is no guarantee that whatever the engineers come up with will be competitive.
Nonetheless, it’s interesting to see more automakers getting involved in F1, even if most of the activity is on a somewhat superficial level. Aston will be Red Bull’s title sponsor in 2018, Alfa Romeo will enter into a similar arrangement with Sauber, and Maserati may link up with Haas. It shows that, even with the all-electric Formula E series attracting attention, F1 still has prestige.