No more ‘plucky underdog’ – Szafnauer outlines ambitious plans for Aston Martin F1

Everyone likes the tale of the plucky underdog in all walks of life. The pleasure of seeing a team, individual or business rise from adversity, or humble beginnings, to become successful and punch above their weight offers hope and encouragement to all.

No more is this discrepancy between the top dogs and also-rans more apparent than in the cutthroat world of Formula One racing where, traditionally, the big manufacturer teams with more staff, resources and budget dominate proceedings year upon year.

Yet all that could be about to change, after the sport’s governing body, the FIA, rubber-stamped a reduced cost cap for teams and sliding scale rule for aerodynamic testing, in order to further level the playing field between the front and back of the grid.

One team that hopes to see the balance of power shift decisively in their favour is current midfield battlers, BWT Racing Point. The team is to be rebranded as Aston Martin F1 Team from the 2021 season onwards thanks to a £536m fundraising by the shareholders of Aston Martin Lagonda, and an injection of £260m of new capital from Lawrence Stroll’s Yew Tree Consortium.

For CEO and Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer, the new cost cap measures are an important step in making F1 more financially sustainable and closing the gap between those at the top, middle and bottom.

“I believe the decisions we’ve reached as a collective between the teams, Formula 1 and the FIA have put the necessary processes in place to make the sport more financially sustainable and do so over a timescale that’s achievable for everybody,” said Szafnauer in a team statement. “Ultimately, it’s in all our interests to keep all the teams in business and to continue providing great racing for the fans.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Executive Officer and Team Principal, Racing Point F1

Many, of course, will be sad to see the striking ‘Pink Panther’ BWT livery disappear from the grid, as Racing Point has always been a popular team for fans of the sport. But for Szafnauer, safeguarding the team under the famous Aston Martin name can only be a good thing, and will invariably build a whole new fanbase, as well as keeping those loyal to the team.

“We’ve always enjoyed that underdog reputation and we’ve made some fantastic memories along the way. Now, though, we’re looking to the future and building a new legacy worthy of the Aston Martin name. These new financial rules give every team a more equal shot at achieving their potential and that can only be a positive thing for the sport. The future looks bright and our absolute aim is to be at the very sharp end of that future.”

For now, though, the primary focus is on getting back to racing after months of inactivity as a result of the global Coronavirus pandemic with racing set to resume on July 5 at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

“Seeing the factory re-open is a boost for everybody and an important step closer to going racing again in July,” adds Szafnauer. “Obviously, we’re all keen to get back to doing what we love – but keeping our teammates safe and our facilities free from coronavirus is the absolute priority. A great deal of time, thought, and effort has gone into achieving that goal and will continue to do so. To those involved in that process, I extend my deepest gratitude.

“It’s going to be an intense few months for us all. But a great deal of thought has gone into this calendar from all relevant stakeholders – including the teams, Formula 1, the FIA, the circuit owners and so on. We’re all in agreement that the proposed plan is manageable and, knowing what I know of our team, they’ll relish the challenge. At the end of the day, we’re all racers. This is our passion and we’re excited to get back to it.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.