That a team next to last in the standings can arrive in a few years to fight with the top teams for the world title is presented as an apparently illusory vision for the outside spectator. And yet, what Aston Martin built shows up increasingly as a concrete ambition rather than a pipe dream. From 2014 to 2021 the team, in the various denominations that have followed one another including Force India and Racing Point, has constantly established itself as a center-group reality, grabbing three seventh places in the constructors’ championship, a sixth, a fifth despite the limited means. places over and three-fourths absolute places. The 2022 championship represents a setback for the team with the current penultimate place in the team standings. However, it is not a novelty that at the dawn of a technical cycle the inexperience with the new regulations can lead to incorrect design choices, from which not even the multi-victorious Mercedes was exempt. Even more than the performances on the track, therefore, the manifesto of the expansion of the team is given by the substantial campaign of hiring leading technicians in recent months, attracted and convinced by factors that still struggle to leak to the outside public.
By crossing the different interviews collected during the season by FormulaPassion.it with the representatives of Aston Martin, an eloquent picture of recent investments emerges. To fully understand the extent of the change underway, it is appropriate to start from the scenario before the acquisition of Lawrence Stroll, illustrated by Andrew Green, Technical Director of the team: “During the days of Force India and before, it was incredibly difficult for us to recruit and attract experienced engineers from other teams. Nobody wanted to work for us. We were struggling to pay wages and we were precarious, we didn’t know if we would still exist in the next race. So trying to recruit someone from an established team was out of the question. We had to hire young engineers, it was a necessity, but then we struggled to keep them. Once they grew up, just when they started to blossom they looked elsewhere, because they didn’t know if they would be paid ”. The team was therefore in a precarious situation at the level of qualified personnel, with economic instability that affected the possibility of attracting and building a first-level technical-human capital.
Parallel to the appearance of the organic, Aston Martin also inherited large infrastructure gapsincluding a small and fragmented site, which also does not have its own wind tunnel. “It is certainly not an advantage, because we have to outsource many activities and purchase numerous components, which creates a certain dependence on suppliers”explains Team Principal Mike Krack. “Even financially, you spend more on buying than on making things at home. So it’s a disadvantage and for the wind tunnel it’s the same: we have to prepare our staff, go elsewhere and do our tests there. On the other hand, other teams are also in the same situation as us. McLaren has to travel to Cologne and it’s not easy. I don’t think we should use this as an excuse, but that’s not what you would want if you could choose freely“. The delegation to the outside is also always an obstacle to internal communication, affecting the soundness of the technical choices and the competitiveness of the car. “Now we also have remote work units, we are not all in one location because it is too small”continues Krack. “Team dynamics suffer from this, because people are not all in the same place. Being able to complete the job is not a drama, but not having the team that does not work all together. When there are several geographic locations there are always losses in betweenalthough they are not intentional, but it is human nature “.
Lawrence Stroll thus found himself in possession of a structure lacking both from the point of view of the breadth and stability of the staff as well as from the infrastructural one. Aston Martin has therefore launched a substantial external hiring campaign, attracting prominent engineers from top teams, including Red Bull. The entry into the team of already established technicians has raised a great media echo, however partially obscuring an equally significant program of grafts from universities. Tom explains McCulloughDirector of Performance: “This is an annual process. We have been pushing on recent graduates for a long time footprinti, because these people are the future of our sport. We hire these guys, let them join our work groups and watch them grow, many of whom start out not even graduated, but come to us for a year, then go back to university and then come back to us again. We are now at a stage where many of our senior engineers have teamed up with the graduate program, then become full-fledged and now even senior engineers. It’s fun to be part of this process, in which phenomenal questions come from all over the world “.
“We are now in a much better position, where we can attract talent from other teamstogether with making these students grow and make them stay “, comments Andrew Green, noting how the willingness of numerous technicians to join the team reflects the finding of a solid project. The infrastructure modernization investments, with the construction of the new factory and the wind tunnel, convince even the most skeptical candidates to embrace the project, as McCullough explains: “When we do the interviews with the candidates they are very interested, because they want to know and then rthey are amazed when they start hearing what will happen: the construction of the wind tunnel, the new factory and the entire campus. We have a model in reception and when they see it they are impressed “. Andrew Green echoes: “It is the manifesto of the team’s ambitions. They are all shocked and happy to work in the current conditions, which are far from ideal. They accept them, however, because they know they will change in the short term. They see the new factory coming up and they know that next year they will work in it “.
Joining the team in 2019, Lance Stroll personally witnessed the expansion of the team: “Nothing changes overnight: it’s about understanding, developing, improving over the course of the season, but I look forward to the next few years with great interest. Everything that is happening at Silverstone is truly transforming our headquarters for how quickly the new factory is springing up and how many people are entering. Since joining the team three years ago, the team has grown to over 200 people and still more are joining every day. For us it’s really all about the future and it’s all exciting “. A growth in the workforce also reflected by the construction of the new factory and the wind tunnel, close to being completed on a land where a few months ago there was only grass: “We are focusing on the future”Stroll explains. “We are in a phase of growth, with a new factory under construction, with many new people joining the team. We are now where we are, but I look to the future ahead of us with really high expectations […] We are really focused on the future and we are excited about it. It’s amazing what is going on at Silverstone, with the factory growing week by week. Every time I go it is shocking to see the progress and to see how fast the building is rising. There are also many people who are joining the team, making the project, in its current growth path, extremely exciting “.
However, individuals alone are not enough to make a car competitive if not properly coordinated from above. In 2022 Aston Martin also saw the arrival of a new Team Principal, Mike Krack, who immediately made known his management line: “I think we have a very collaborative technical department, which I try to manage without exaggerating, because you have to find the right compromise between lack of supervision and complete lack of trust. It is important that when hiring high-level people, as we have done recently and as we had before, you don’t tell them what to do every five minutes. It is important to have a dialogue with them and ask what can be done, what is needed and what can be useful, but it is not up to me to analyze the aerodynamic flow fields. That’s why we have experts who are much, much better than me. These are things where I think I can be positive, try to give them the freedom to develop without too many constraints, which can be financial or copies, for example saying “I want this” or “I want it as others do”. This is completely wrong, because it kills people. You have to foster an environment where people feel safe and can be creative and I’m working on this“.
In conclusion, according to Mike Krack, all the various pieces of the puzzle are slowly falling into place and the team should be able to start reaping the benefits in the short term: “I don’t think we miss him very much. All of this happened very quickly. There is a new factory under construction, so it is about consolidating our staff and the infrastructure that we will have in the coming months, and then building from there. The structure of a team in Formula 1 is never static, but is constantly evolving. There are those who arrive and those who leave, there are regulatory changes and the strengthening of some departments sometimes happens precisely because of the new regulations. I think the financial aspect is an excellent example: years ago the finance departments were very small, while now with the economic regulations these divisions are growing. We therefore have a good starting pointbut it is constantly evolving “. Aston Martin’s ambitions are therefore not limited to being mere façade statements, but are reflected in a concrete 360 ° investment work. And if this will be enough to compete with teams that have been at the top of Formula 1 for decades, only time will tell.
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