The launch of Aston Martin Cognizant F1, which is he revamped version of Racing Point, was an interesting affair. I’m all for F1 teams doing things differently for launches – not the same old thing a la Alfa Romeo – but this one was a funny old mixture. Let us put things into perspective here. This is the old Jordan team – 30 years on. It has always had good people behind the owners, and it was an act of genius (Well done, Otmar Szafnauer and Andy Green) to work out that one could legally copy the 2019 Mercedes and, with Sergio Perez driving and Mercedes falling over its bootlaces, it was possible to win a race last year in Bahrain.
This is the team that was once owned by the Midland Group, the Dutch car company Spyker (whatever happened to them?) and, of course, Vijay Mallya, who continues his fight to avoid being sent home to India, where presumably the full force of India will mean that he goes to jail. It is five years since he fled his home country and although he has lost one court battle after another, he is still in England and appealing – although I cannot say I find him appealing at all…
The team became Racing Point under new owner Lawrence Stroll although, to be quite honest, I never really understand the Point. It sounded like a holding pattern until the man came up with a plan. It was always going to happen.
Stroll’s billions came from being “a branding guy” and so we waited to see what the team would become. Nasty folk said that it was all just a vehicle for his son Lance, but Lawrence has bigger ambitions than that. Lance has some talent, but is still working to create the full package, but Lawrence has now bought himself the sexy Aston Martin brand and is aiming to do with it what he did with Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors etc.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but I think it is fair to say that I was not waiting for Santan Dave to say “We’re gonna tell you a story…”
If it sounds like I have heard of Santan Dave, I apologise, because I did not have a clue who he was, which I put down to the fact that I have lived in France since long before Santan was even conceived. Thankfully, that nice Mr Google helped me out and I discovered that he is a 22-year-old relevant rapper from Brixton, who I suspect might not necessarily appeal to the average Aston Martin buyer. That segment was a bit odd and an indication that perhaps Santan wasn’t fully aware of Aston Martin’s history in F1. He talked a lot about that rosy place called history, but I guess no-one told him that it might be best to avoid talking about Aston Martin and F1 in the same sentence, as the story does not glow in any golden way…
With that segment finished (happily), we were presented with a presenter. I know that face, I thought. She’s not an Sky F1 presenter doing some freelance. She’s a proper film star. Actually, I’m very fond of Gemma Arterton because she made a film called Gemma Bovery some years ago which was shot in my local village. The result of this was that the fountain that the film-makers installed is still there and it adds to the charm, fake though it may be.
Sadly, poor Gemma Bovery choked to death on bread from the very boulangerie where I often buy my bread, although I continue to buy it, based on the principle that the film was fiction and they won’t kill me with their baguettes…
Anyway Gemma Arterton was involved with Aston Martin even before then because she was a Bond girl, having played Strawberry Fields in “Quantum of Solace” in 2008. She has since gone on to enjoy success in films such as Tamara Drewe, while also doing work prize-winning work in the theatre.
But there was more to come. We had James Bond himself – or at least Daniel Craig – and the American football legend Tom Brady.
And, to cut a long story short, we ended up with questions from fans about whether Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel prefer cats or dogs. Both said that they prefer dogs (as does Gemma), but I would have answered the question with: “Fried or boiled?” – just to throw the cat among the pigeons.
This, however, was all colourful confetti around the happy couple: Lawrence Stroll and Aston Martin.
“I’ve dreamed about this day for a very long time. I’ve always been a car guy, since I was a child,” the bridegroom said. “I’ve always loved racing, too. My first dream was to own a Formula 1 team. My second dream was to acquire a majority 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.
“Aston Martin returning to Formula 1 after an absence of 61 years will have a powerful effect on the sport, the media and the fans, commanding global attention.
“The team who designed and built our new Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 car – the 500 men and women who conceive, manufacture, build and prepare our cars so that we can go racing at the pinnacle of global motorsport – has always punched above its weight. Now, as the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 Team, it has the power with which to punch even harder. This is just the beginning. The team is pushing forward, and our ambitions are limitless. We now have the pieces in place, the people and the partners, to make real progress.
“The Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 car is our group’s highest expression of performance, innovation, engineering quality, attention to detail, and teamwork. I have great confidence in Otmar [Szafnauer], Andrew [Green] and all who work for them. I firmly believe we have the perfect blend of experience and youth in Sebastian [Vettel] and Lance [Stroll]. An ethos of fierce ambition and unshakeable dedication is shared by every single team member. It is exhilarating to see – and to feel.”
Andrew Green, who was one of the original Jordan Grand Prix design team, back in 1990 summed things up well, I thought.
“When I was a young boy, my first toy car was the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 – with the ejector seat,” he said. “I still have it and had always dreamt of owning one, so Aston Martin has always been a big part of my childhood. Cut to where I am now, and every day I walk into a factory with the Aston Martin logo over the door. To be the Technical Director of the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 team, it’s the dream come true, it sends shivers down my spine.”
One hopes that Aston Martin F1 will be a success and will drive huge success for the car company. But it should perhaps be noted that last week Aston Martin Lagonda reported its financial figures for 2020, during which the firm sold 4,150 cars, 32 percent down on 2019. The company is hoping to sell 6,000 cars in 2021 and wants to get to 10,000 by 2024 or 2025.
Aston Martin booked a loss of £466 million before tax for 2020, compared to a £120 million loss in 2019. Revenues were down by 38 percent. There are high hopes for the DBX SUV and from F1 and James Bond is expected to help out in September with the launch of the much-delayed new film “No time to Die” in September…