Aston Martin F1 team owner Lawrence Stroll says their new title sponsorship deal with IT firm Cognizant reflects his desire to align the luxury car manufacturer with “titans of industry”.
“With this deal today, what we wanted to do in returning Aston Martin to the grid is do everything the way I only do things,” Stroll explained in an interview with select media including RaceFans.
“Which is there’s ‘five star’ and then there’s ‘Lawrence-star’. I want to have relationships and associations with titans of industry, best of class.”
Stroll’s notable hirings to date have made good on that boast. They include four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel and new communications director Matt Bishop, a paddock veteran who spent a decade in charge of McLaren’s media department.
Last year the team achieved remarkable results with its RP20. Modelled closely on the previous year’s championship-winning Mercedes – indeed, slightly too closely for the stewards’ liking – it was the only car besides Red Bull’s RB16 to beat the champions to both a pole position and a victory.
The RP20 was the first car developed entirely since Stroll bought the assets of the former Force India team in mid-2018 and ploughed badly-needed funds into a beleaguered outfit that had long punched above its weight. Stroll explained how the Cognizant deal will accelerate the development of the car’s Aston Martin-branded successor.
“IT is the future of Formula 1,” said Stroll. “It’s the Internet of Things, it’s cloud computing, it’s digital engineering, it’s data analysis, it’s AI. We’re building a new factory, I want it to be a smart factory, 5G. The most important partner one can have in Formula 1 today to make a true contribution to the team is an IT partner.”
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Ever-tighter restrictions on testing – teams will have just three days’ running pre-season this year – puts a premium on rapid gathering and analysis of data.
“How good are you? Well, how fast can you figure out that data after first practice to change the car for second practice, et cetera?
“So we focussed on first finding the strongest digital partner in the world. We knocked on a lot of doors. One of them, in America, Cognizant, is known as one of the most respected and greatest companies in the Fortune couple of hundred. It was just a match made in heaven. I don’t know how to say it any more.”
Stroll met Cognizant CEO Brian Humphries near their homes in Switzerland to finalise the deal. Humphries “totally understood” what a presence in Formula 1 could do for his company, said Stroll.
“He said ‘Lawrence, I need to associate myself with winners. A: With you, Lawrence, first. B: Aston Martin, the brand, it just doesn’t get any better. I need to have more global reach. I want to grow my business outside of the United States’.
“To grow his business it’s C-suite executives, it’s not necessarily a beer-drinking crowd if you feel what I mean.”
Humphries said Aston Martin “really ticked all the boxes for us” as a partner. “It’s a legendary brand, it’s admired globally, it’s innovative. And in some ways, therefore, I felt we were joining good company in doing this.”
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Stroll’s track record “speaks for itself, obviously, in other industries”, added Humphries. “He’s got a lot of ambition for this venture and I personally have a lot of ambition for Cognizant and was really enthused that he really wants to take Aston Martin road company and Aston Martin Formula 1 company to the next level.”
Humphries wanted Cognizant to be more than just a sponsor of the team. “I didn’t want to be a tiny logo on a car, one of 20 stickers,” he said. Stroll sees the deal as “much more a partnership than a sponsorship”. The company has already begun integrating within the Aston Martin operation and working with technical director Andrew Green to bring the benefit of its expertise.
“Clearly, they are our title sponsor and this is the largest, I think, commercial transaction that’s happened in this sport’s space in recent years,” said Stroll. “It is a huge multi-year partnership.
“A big part of that is what they’re going to do to help us in the whole world of IT, starting with the Formula 1 team and focus on that. They’ve already been speaking for a couple of weeks, their engineers, with Andy Green and our people back at the factory. And there’s already a whole list and plans of things they can give us.
“The first one we’re focussed on is data. How to help us understand much quicker the data we’re getting off the car. Which is something we were looking to buy from an IT firm. In this case, of course, being our partner they’ll be supplying things like that to us. So it’s going to happen immediately.”
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