Aston Martin hires former McLaren F1 team principal Whitmarsh

2021 F1 season

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Aston Martin has recruited former McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh and tasked him with making their operation world championship contenders within five years.

The latest addition to the team’s recruitment drive brings two-and-a-half decades of experience earned at one of Formula 1’s top teams during its successful spell through the nineties and into the 2000s.

Whitmarsh, 63, held the positions of McLaren Group CEO and F1 team principal between 1989 and 2014. In addition to the team’s championship successes at the time with drivers including Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton, it also expanded its business into the technology and automotive industries.

Aston Martin has hired him to serve as Group CEO for its Aston Martin Performance Technologies division. In addition to his F1 responsibilities Whitmarsh will also be involved in marketing the group’s products and capabilities across different industries. He will take over the role at the beginning of next month.

“Martin will enjoy senior leadership responsibility and will assist and support me in setting the new strategic direction for Aston Martin Performance Technologies and its subsidiaries,” said executive chairman Lawrence Stroll. Whitmarsh’s tasks will include transforming the team “into a Formula 1 world championship-winning organisation within the next four to five years, and evolving it into a £1 billion business over a similar time period.”

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“Martin has enjoyed a long, successful and high-profile career, spanning the motorsport, automotive, aerospace, marine and renewable-energy sectors” Stroll continued. “Moreover, he is a proven winner in Formula 1. He is therefore the ideal person for the job of working with me and our senior management team to lead and inspire our workforce to future success both on and off track.”

Whitmarsh said he is “utterly convinced” Stroll’s objective of becoming world championship contenders by 2026 is “an entirely achievable aim.”

“I have known and admired Lawrence for many years and I have always been extremely impressed by his formidable business acumen and his seemingly inexhaustible ambition,” said Whitmarsh. “Equally, I have always respected ‘Team Silverstone’, if I can call it that, which has often punched above its weight under its various previous incarnations, and which now has the weight with which to punch harder than ever before.”

“I know what it takes to win in Formula 1 and, inspired by Lawrence’s leadership and backed by the skill, passion and resolve of the workforce, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure that our team becomes the winning operation that Lawrence is determined that it should be,” he added.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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55 comments on “Aston Martin hires former McLaren F1 team principal Whitmarsh”

  1. Gotta hand it to Papa Stroll, no meek hiding in the shadows like the only other real investor in recent times

    Go big…and there seems to be no “or” in this sentence

    …now only if they’d try with producing their own cars…

    1. Not sure how big this is.
      At least seven years out of the sport, and not been that successful in his CEO spell at the end of his F1 career.

    2. Who is next.. RON Dennis?

    3. Very interesting choice in hiring to run the big show at AM. I wonder how the culture will change for the employee’s who have been around since the successful low budget days of Force India? I’m sure there’s already been a lot of changes.

      Like jff mentioned above. Being seven years out of the sport is very significant and considering how dramatically it has changed in F1 since then and considering being ousted from his position as CEO of McLaren Racing and McLaren Group during the downward direction it was heading. After that, he was hired by the UK America’s Cup team where he stepped down after two years (the team didn’t win the AC and with controversy).

      I do hope it goes well and he does have an incredible wealth of experience in F1. I really hope Aston Martin gets solidify and running smoothly for a long time to come. We need more teams doing what AM is doing, investing heavily and looking toward a long term future in F1.

      Now if we can only find two more teams like this to enter F1

  2. Wow, never saw that one coming…. that’s a bit of a coup from Stroll

  3. Seems Stroll is really building this team up.

    1. Well, he’s waving his cheque book and buying what he perceives as ‘the best’ but that doesn’t mean that, when put together, they work well as a team. Remember how the team, when it was Force India, had remarkable success on a tiny budget. That was a superb team, but nowhere near the most expensive.
      Big names have big egos and too many of those in a team rarely work well.

  4. If Aston Martin were a rock group – they’d be the Travelling Wilburys.

    They are certainly serious about their future in F1, they’re acquiring a lot of top level talent – which is great to see!

  5. It will be interesting to see if a customer team can challenge for the championship as most seem content with at most being best of the rest.

    1. Red Bull did it with Renault. I can’t think of any other recent examples though.
      I am almost positive that Mercedes will be dropping their branding of the Brackley team in the next 5 years, probably renaming it as Ineos F1 or Wolff Racing. At that point they’ll be supplying four distinct but successful teams and getting a share of each one’s glory.

      1. Until the V6 era, McLaren were significantly more successful on-track than the team that supplied their engines, Mercedes.

        I was at a McLaren function when Jenson Button won his last race in Brazil in 2012. At the time the team made a big deal about how their use of Mobil 1 made them faster than Mercedes, even before aero and other considerations.

  6. @velocityboy – I think in the past the engine manufacturers held back on some info regarding engine mapping and held a real advantage. Which is why I think Ron Dennis was right (in theory) when he jibbed Mercedes for Honda. Now the manufacturers can’t do that, the advantage is less great and a good customer team who can innovate and develop a good package could really shine through. McLaren and Aston Martin could really put pressure on Mercedes. I think Aston Martin have further to go as a lot of their hirings won’t be effective for some time, but in a few years perhaps Mercedes will be happy to withdraw from F1 if they have championships being won with the Mercedes engine in other cars.

    1. @geekzilla9000 would it not be more pertinent to point out that most teams that are customer teams have, by extension, fewer resources than the team they are buying from? If the team had the scale of resources of a much larger team, then usually they would not need to be a customer team in that situation.

      With regards to Ron and Honda, there were those pointing out that it was also tied in to politics within McLaren and with other teams, rather than being just a technical decision.

      We know from McLaren’s financial accounts that Mercedes were no longer financially propping up McLaren – they explicitly noted that part of the major drop in their finances was because Mercedes was cutting back on their financial support – whereas Honda was prepared to provide that same level of financial support.

      There were those who also suggested that Ron’s decision was also motivated by symbolism of the deal – the customer engine deal had been signed by Whitmarsh, so Ron’s decision to sign with Honda was symbolically breaking with Whitmarsh’s policies and a way of having him reshape the team in his image again. Having backing from a major manufacturer was something that Ron Dennis made a point of, and he wanted the influence that it gave him – both within the sport as a power broker, and outside of the sport when courting investors.

      There’s also a suggestion from Honda employees that Ron Dennis pushed Honda to start supplying engines at least a year earlier than their engineers wanted to, with those engineers perceiving it to be vanity on Ron’s part – that Ron did not want to be a “mere customer” of Mercedes, even if it was ultimately detrimental to McLaren’s performances in the short to medium term because the engines were underdeveloped.

  7. A guy who destroyed McLaren with Jenson Button..

    I forsee disaster 😩…

  8. I’m curious, where does this leave Otmar Szafnauer in the organization?

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      21st September 2021, 15:09

      Me too, I was wondering the same. How is Jenson going to fit into this?

    2. I’m guessing Martin will be Otmar’s boss?

      “Aston Martin has hired him to serve as Group CEO for its Aston Martin Performance Technologies division”

      According to Wikipedia, Otmar is:

      “Currently he is chief executive officer and team principal of the Aston Martin F1 Team.”

    3. Martin will find a way to fit Jenson into that team soon. Might even take him on as a driver, lol

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    21st September 2021, 15:08

    Did Whitmarsh just outsell Stroll? :)

  10. Next we’ll hear Otmar going to McLaren;

    1. @rufernan I could see Otmar having one possible outside option is going to Haas, that’s if Gene Haas ever decides to turn things around and take F1 more seriously or he sells Haas.

  11. Green teams are destined to flop it seems. With Whitmarsh this will flop as hard as Jaguar and Lotus combined.

  12. I think McLaren are more likely to take a world title before Aston Martin do if we’re talking about Mercedes customers. Given how closely intertwined AM is to Mercedes, McLaren actually seem more ‘independent’, if it was such a thing.

  13. I didn’t expect him to make an F1 return this long after his post-2013 season Mclaren ousting.

  14. They want to turn this very likeable team in its different incarnation into a pure looser team now with this recruitment. Wrong hire

    1. Likable team? Have you ever listened to Otmar Szafnauer or Stroll?

  15. Well, he previously took a successful championship-challenging team and turned it into a midfield basket case, so he should be able to do the same in reverse. I’m sure that’s how this works.

    1. walk into office backwards?

    2. It is always easier to critise than to lead.

      I was once rejected from a project management role because i was told that i have not seen enough failures to handle the up-coming position and know how to deal with fire.

      Not trying to blindly defend him but dont judge people based on their failures. Sometimes life is like that. You fail once, thought learnt ur lesson, then fail again for a completely different reason. Learnt something new then comes a third failure of something completely new, and it keeps spiraling.

      Does it mean he will be a failure again the forth time? Maybe, or maybe not.

      People need to have some empathy
      Why would so many people so openly wish a team fail. 500 employees are involved. If anything, i hope he does a good job this time and wish the team all the best.

      1. Well said Hayden!

    1. This absolutely stupid!
      Yet still I enjoyed it.

    2. For me this was Whitmarsh’s best F1 moment:

      Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: 2008 Singapore GP (link to youtube vid)

    3. The same guy made a “Whitmarsh” film trailer:

  16. Oh dear. Why?!?!

    Ran McLaren into mediocrity and totally failed to win any silverware.

    Absolutely bizarre development and one I don’t understand at all.

  17. I can sort of understand the negative comments here, but it’s different when he’s CEO, and not TP.

    It’s like Zak Brown where it’s about getting the right people, and Whitmarsh will be as good as any at that. Remember he lured Red Bull aerodynamicist Dan Fallows to come to McLaren, but once Whitmarsh was ousted, Fallows didn’t want to go work for Ron Dennis so changed his mind.

    Good choice I say. With his time outside, he will have learned a lot. Seeing the forest and not just trees and all that.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      21st September 2021, 18:34

      @balue that’s a valid point – it’s all about bringing the right people in at that level and letting them do what they need to do.

    2. @balue

      Some would argue that Martin Whitmarsh and some of his management methods were one of the key reasons for Mclaren’s demise over this past decade.

      I’m not sure this makes much sense at this stage. Yes I get it, he is going to be a CEO of the organisation, while Otmar will continues are the TP. From an organisational perspective, this is a good move. The CEO-TP arrangement is very much in the Mclaren mould and it’s proven to work. However, Whitmarsh has been out of the sport for the best part of a decade and F1 is a sport that moves pretty fast (pardon the pun). How in touch is he with modern F1? If you draw parallels to Zak Brown, although he wasnt managing a team in F1, he was very much involved on the commercial side, so there was a very good argument for his appointment. I also wonder why Whitmarsh would take on such a challenging role that will require an abundance of energy at this late stage of his career.

      I’m pretty sure there were better candidates out there, so this is a very interesting appointment. All we can do is wish them all the best.

      1. @jaymenon10 Stroll’s business success has been to add value to brands, and I think this is the main reasoning here: Martin Whitmarsh is the perfect face for the Aston Martin brand.

        I don’t know exactly what Whitmarsh did wrong at McLaren, but it’s still easy to see how his character will attract people there. The Fallows example like I mentioned, and the drivers never had a bad word to say about him, even Hamilton.

  18. On one hand I always respected and admired him. On the other hand he respects and admires Stroll so…

    Colour me somewhere in the middle on this one.

  19. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
    21st September 2021, 18:35

    People were rejoicing when he was fired at McLaren. Why are people now rejoicing that he was hired 7 years later, at Aston?

    1. Maybe, just maybe, they’re not the same people :O

  20. @balue he also went against Adrian Newey in many ocassions, and we know how that went…

  21. @fer-no65 I don’t understand this, can you explain?

  22. It might just work if he is not allowed to go hiring.

  23. I’m skeptical about this, but on the other hand lawrence stroll seems to do everything he does seriously, so who knows.

  24. It’s a ploy to get Lewis after Seb leaves and Russell takes Merc.

  25. Glade to see Martin back, but I have to question why he would take on a job with a less than 1 in 10 chance of success

    I mean, there’s 10 teams all convinced they’ll win the championship and plenty of others with a better chance

  26. He totally disappear after 2014. He did some yacht things but really didn’t see him coming back. Good luck to him and Aston. A mega catch.

  27. I named my son Martin, so I might be biased..

    But Martin W. Leading A. Martin, sounds great to me.

    I always liked him at McLaren, tbings went downhill right abour when he left.

    But age is a thing, in 5 years he’ll be 68, are they trying to do a Ross Brawn at Mercedes?

    Build up, then Martin and Seb retire, and hot not so young single WDC George Russel will take next 6 in a row?

  28. Ah, the tragedy of a flop foretold.

  29. Whitmarsh said he is “utterly convinced” Stroll’s objective of becoming world championship contenders by 2026 is “an entirely achievable aim.”

    Surely this can only happen with an engine partner these days?

  30. Yeah lets hire the guy who totally failed at McLaren. His leadership ideas and style never fit in Formula 1

    he is a proven winner in Formula 1.

    As in he managed to take lead of a team that was winning races and championships and turn them into midfielders in a matter of a few years?

  31. Has he ever accomplished the task with which he is now charged at any point in his career? Major gamble on the part of Aston Martin! They probably thought it cool to hire an officer named “Martin”….

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