For 2019, Aston Martin became a key partner in the search for Britain’s next Formula 1 star. Here’s why the company wanted to get involved in the process, where it has already had a big impact.
Aston Martin president and group CEO Andy Palmer is very clear about the importance of motorsport to the famous British marque, which helps to explain why it decided to get involved with the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award.
On the face of it, Aston Martin wasn’t the obvious candidate to get involved in the initiative to find Britain’s next F1 star. Despite its relationship with Red Bull Racing, it’s more famous for its exotic road cars and success in endurance racing. But the Award, which began in 1989 when David Coulthard was the inaugural winner, ticks two key boxes when it comes to Aston Martin’s approach in the 21st century.
The first is the direct link between the Gaydon-based firm and the motorsport competition mentioned above.
“The Vantage GTE racer starts life as a tub manufactured in the road car factory,” adds Palmer. “Lots of manufacturers talk about being inspired by racing and crossover from racing, but normally the racing division has nothing to do with the car division. That’s not true with Aston Martin.
The second box is that the Award is all about finding and supporting young British talent, something Palmer believes is crucial for the future of the UK motor industry.
“The company has made a commitment to recruiting significant numbers of apprentices every year, and I have a great belief that if we are to preserve skills in the United Kingdom we need to invest in them,” he says. “The only way you can guarantee to preserve those skills is to develop them here and that spills over into motorsport. It helps fly the flag of British technology.
“If you look to other areas of the automotive/automobile industry in which we as a country excel, you find yourself in Formula 1. We’re really good at race car technology and F1 is the showcase for that. It’s a Super Bowl every two weeks. It’s easy for the public to forget that a Mercedes is developed in Brackley or a Red Bull is developed in Milton Keynes, but the fact that Lewis Hamilton, a great British talent, is driving brings that back. It’s all about resonance.
“What’s the all-important part of racing? The hero is the driver, so we have a responsibility in developing our own drivers. I would like to claim that we found [W Series champion and 2019 Award finalist] Jamie Chadwick quite early [she won British GT4 with Aston Martin in 2015]. The Award is a more formal and structured way of finding that talent.”
Aston Martin’s role in the Award goes beyond the headline £200,000 prize and Red Bull F1 test drive. Factory pilot and 1996 Award winner Darren Turner joined the judging panel this year and a Garage 59-run Aston Martin Vantage GT3 became one of the three test cars.
Chairman of the judges Derek Warwick believes Aston Martin’s arrival added to the strengths of the Award.