The Aston Martin AMR21 will be driven by Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll in the 2021 Formula 1 season. (Photo courtesy of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team)
The Aston Martin name is set to return to Formula 1 in 2021 after a 61-year absence. Xinhua spoke to team boss Lawrence Stroll about the team's prospects for the new season and its ambitions to win the world championship.
By F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth
BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Aston Martin F1 team owner Lawrence Stroll is confident his team will move further up the grid in 2021, with world championship titles the long-term goal.
After buying out the financially troubled Force India squad in 2018, Stroll renamed the team Racing Point and began investing heavily, including hiring his own son Lance to drive.
With Stroll's increased investment, Racing Point enjoyed a productive 2020, narrowly missing out on third place in the constructors' championship and seeing driver Sergio Perez take the team's maiden win at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
The team will be known as Aston Martin F1 from 2021 after Stroll also took over the British carmaker in January last year, and the Canadian told Xinhua he hoped his team would be best of the rest behind the leading Mercedes and Red Bull teams this year.
Final preparations for Lance Stroll before he heads out for his first run in the AMR21, March 5, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team)
"That is our goal and our plan, absolutely," Stroll said of ambitions to consolidate third place in the championship. "This group of guys has always punched above their weight. Now, we'll still be punching above our weight, but hopefully, we will be punching harder and stronger. We have all the resources now. We are now at the current budget cap, so we're not deficient to the so-called bigger teams that are in front of us."
Stroll's ambitious plans for Aston Martin include the construction of a brand new factory at the team's Silverstone headquarters, which the Canadian hopes will be instrumental in his team eventually winning F1's top prize.
"Our ultimate goal is to be world champion. The most important tool you have in F1 is your factory. We have commenced building a purpose-built, state-of-the-art factory. We already have great people, and we're about to have the best tools, so those are the two biggest factors in determining success in F1."
One of the most eye-catching moves in F1 last year was Ferrari's decision not to retain the services of Sebastian Vettel for 2021 - a decision made even before the 2020 season had begun.
Though it had seemed that Vettel might end up leaving F1, Stroll ultimately signed the four-time world champion to partner son Lance and replace Perez, and told Xinhua what he feels the German brings to his squad.
"Sebastian is clearly a great driver. He has been a four-time world champion, and my guys haven't been world champion yet, so he brings that knowledge to help lift the team to a new level of understanding of how you need to act and perform to do so."
Sebastian Vettel on his first shakedown run of the AMR21 at a murky Silverstone circuit, March 5, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team)
Stroll also dismissed concerns that Vettel's talents might be on the wane, after a couple of seasons in which he was comprehensively overshadowed by younger teammate Charles Leclerc.
"A four-time world champion doesn't forget how to drive all of a sudden. Having your contract terminated before the season even starts isn't the best way of motivating somebody to get them focused on the job at hand. This guy has got something to prove, and he's raring to go."
Racing Point came in for criticism from other teams early last year when their 2020 challenger bore a striking resemblance to Mercedes' 2019 championship-winning W10 car.
Though the legality of the RP19 was contested by several teams, resulting in a 15-point deduction for Racing Point, Stroll insisted that a certain degree of crossover with Mercedes was inevitable, given the shared components of both teams and the success of the W10.
"Of course you're going to take interpretation from a Formula 1 champion, not a team that finishes tenth. Secondly, we already have their power unit and gearbox. That gives you an indication of which direction to go with your aero package to match what gearbox you have, and the power unit has to fit in the chassis."
Stroll also touched on the future of Aston Martin's road car division and talked up the marque's plans for the Chinese market.
"China is the market that we've had the greatest growth in over the last few years. The increase in demand has been incredible. We're planning on doing a tremendous amount of activation when we come back for the Chinese Grand Prix, so it's targeted as our number one priority."