The home of F1’s next new champions? First look at Aston Martin’s £200m ‘game changer’

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Aston Martin pulled off the shock signing of the summer by luring Fernando Alonso from Alpine to join them. He will race alongside Lance Stroll, son of the team’s owner Lawrence.

The billionaire who bought the team four years ago is serious in his desire to transform the outfit into championship contenders. For further proof of that consider the brand new, state-of-the-art, “game-changing” factory and wind tunnel they began building last summer. RaceFans visited the site on Friday as the project nears completion.

Based opposite Silverstone circuit the ambitious, 40-acre project will also provide space for a simulator as well as housing the team’s manufacturing, marketing and design teams. Built at an estimated cost of up to £200 million, the site will consist of three buildings.

The area of the factory where the team’s future cars will be designed and built is due to come into operation next year. The main building is expected to be ready a little later than the original targeted date of late 2022. The third building, which will be used as staff offices including a gym and catering, is not due to be completed until the end of 2024.

The first of Aston Martin’s new buildings is nearing completion
The new wind tunnel will allow the team to conduct its aerodynamic testing in house. This will be a valuable boost for the outfit which currently uses Mercedes’ facilities up the road in Brackley. Aston Martin’s will be ready in August 2024, according to technical director Dan Fallows.

“We’re hoping that we’ll have at least some contribution to the AMR25,” he told selected media including RaceFans. “Depending on how the commissioning and things at the tunnel goes, that will probably be the first car that we’ll be able to have a significant impact with a new tunnel.”

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“In terms of the factory itself, obviously, that’s coming online next year in various stages,” Fallows adds. “So we’re hoping that the cars prior to that will obviously see the benefit of the new factory as well.”

There were flashes of promise from Aston Martin late in 2022
After buying the team in 2018 when, under its former identity Force India, it plunged into serious financial problems, Stroll subsequently rebranded the outfit, first to Racing Point and then last year to Aston Martin. The return to a green livery echoed that of Jordan, the team’s original name when it entered F1 in 1991. It has passed through several hands since then, and its latest billionaire owner is pouring the necessary funds into the team to transform it into a front-runner.

It finished seventh in the standings this season on 55 points, tied with Alfa Romeo which pipped it to sixth place on count-back of their past results. Stroll evidently has ambitions for much more, and the team’s new factory is designed to deliver that.

Crucially, it will allow the design team to work together in an open-plan floor space situated in building one. Fallows predicts this will “significantly” change the dynamic between the team’s staff which are currently spread across different locations.

The new factory will allow Aston Martin to bring all its design staff together

“We’ve got the small factory here, and we have these modular buildings where we have some people who are not necessarily designing parts of the car at the moment, but they are very connected to our design process,” he explains. “Having them not in the same room just makes it slightly more difficult to communicate with them.

“I’ve been in a big, open-plan office before with the ability to be able to walk around and talk to people very easily. It makes a huge difference in terms of those interactions and particularly the sort of serendipitous interactions where you can have a chat with somebody about one thing and go on to talk about a lot of other things. They often end up being the most creative conversation. That’s what we’re trying to build.”

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Sustainability has been a consideration from the outset. All three buildings will incorporate solar panels, yielding a cost saving which will also help the team maximise its potential within the constraints of F1’s budget cap.

Natural light is being harnessed to reduce energy costs
More than 750 trees have been planted by Aston Martin employees and partners in the surrounding area. The building faces north, meaning it will get the most direct sunlight through the day, especially in winter when the sun is at its lowest. It therefore requires a less powerful air conditioning unit, saving on costs and reducing its environmental impact. Down the middle of the main building, which project manager Guy Austin informs us is called ‘The Street’, a 160-metre window allows workers to benefit from natural light throughout the day.

The building will be the first new F1 factory built from the ground up in the UK since the McLaren Technology Centre opened in 2004. It hasn’t come cheap, but team principal Mike Krack is adamant the newest machinery and set-up will make savings in the long run.

“It will for sure,” he says. “You have the ability to make everything yourself, but you can also decide to buy or make it. You can make things faster, and if you can make them also cheaper, it means that you can make more. You can have maybe one or two upgrades more than before due to time and also due to financial reasons you couldn’t do. So from that point of view I think it’s a good step.”

There are the inevitable headaches which come with major building projects, some of which had been amplified by the current economic situation. The construction industry is struggling due to shortages of some materials and a lack of skilled workers. The competition for the latter is fierce and delays have arisen due to the difficulty of getting sufficient people on-site.

The land yielded additional challenges. The clay-rich earth has meant the wind tunnel site had to go through a ‘piling process’ to reinforce the ground. 550 piles of concrete were drilled into it to ensure it could withstand the required loads.

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Fallows, who joined the team from Red Bull earlier this year, believes Aston Martin’s new facilities will enable them to compete with his previous employer. He contributed to the cars which took Max Verstappen to his world championships and brings Aston Martin the first-hand experience of what a modern F1 team requires to be competitive.

The team plans to begin using its new facilities next year
“There’s no doubt that it will be a world-class facility and having access to the wind tunnel 24/7 if required is obviously very important,” he said, anticipating the ever-tighter limits on aerodynamic development which will come if they rise up the championship order.

“As we improve, and our wind tunnel runs availability that we have from the aerodynamic testing restrictions goes down, clearly we wouldn’t be spending as much time in the tunnel. But having your own facility means you can do other experiments as well, which is invaluable. It’s something we don’t necessarily have the luxury of doing at the moment when we’re sharing a tunnel with another team.”

Aston Martin’s 2022 campaign began unpromisingly but ended with the team regularly scoring points. With Alonso arriving and cutting-edge new premises coming on-stream over the coming months, Lawrence Stroll is making it abundantly clear to his F1 rivals that his team means business.

Aston Martin expects the new factory will make them a match for any of their rivals

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Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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15 comments on “The home of F1’s next new champions? First look at Aston Martin’s £200m ‘game changer’”

  1. Which car brands will be participating from 2026 in F1? I would not understand it when Ford decides not to participate. I heard Honda has plans to take over a team to continue as factory team. Ford and Red Bull could work together in that case. There is a chance Mercedes will do a step back to focus on delivering engines to AM and Mclaren, especially when you look at the choices AM makes. Many different engine suppliers would be best. Apha Tauri no longer Red Bull family would also be good thing, I guess..

  2. Lewisham Milton
    29th November 2022, 12:56

    Good luck operating for over a year without any catering, and try signing some drivers who aren’t a laughing stock.

    1. Since when is Alonso a laughing stock?

    2. I suppose he’s talking about the line-up of this last year, with 2 fairly weak drivers, and obviously stroll, who’s been beaten by every team mate except 1, will continue being there as long as he wants, so they will never have 2 strong drivers.

      1. Vettel fairly week?

  3. Damn, way too late for Alonso.
    I’ve been wondering: when teams don’t have their own wind tunnels – do they at least have miniature wind tunnels to test small scale models??

    1. They feed the staff beans and float model F1 cars in the toilets.

  4. I think it is great that Aston Martin are investing in this new facility, and I like the way they are designing it around open-plan team concepts, but thir mention of building a wind tunnel raises a question over the unintended effects of cost caps.

    I think the current rules are that teams are allowed, on average, just 40 wind tunnel tests per week. I don’t know how long a wind tunnel test lasts, but when restrictions were first introduced I think the limit was 65 runs per week and that was seen as a big limitation. That’s 40 runs in total, so in the middle of this season, teams were having to decide how much of their 40 run allowance to use to improve the competitiveness of this year’s car, and how much to use for next year’s design. So does that rule help level the playing field, as intended, or does it just encourage teams to give up on the season earlier, to use all their tunnel time for next year’s car? And does it also mean teams are less likely to test radical designs just to see what works?

    Wind tunnels are expensive to construct, so smaller teams tend to purchase time in third-party tunnels rather than build their own. Reducing the amount that tunnels can be used helps new teams enter the sport, but at the same time it makes it easier for those teams to exit the sport again because they have less tied up in long term capital projects?

  5. The new facility and all the investment that Stroll Sr has provided are all very impressive but until they cut Stroll Jr they won’t be competing for championships. Stroll Sr has to decide if he is doing this for his son or to win championships. The two are mutually exclusive based on Stroll Jr’s record so far.

    1. I think cutting stroll is pointless as long as the car is so weak even their other driver won’t be able to compete for wins.

  6. I have feeling that another team name change would be more likely and earlier than a world championship for this team

    1. Good to see AM investing in their future, but I think Alonso’s move is a season too early for them and him. Alonso could have taken a single year contract at Alpine, and kept an eye on AM’s progress in 2023 before signing for them. This team will beat Alpine within a couple of seasons, but I don’t see them turning in to contenders anytime within the next 5 seasons.

      1. doubt there would have been an opening at aston in 2024

  7. too late for alonso’s 3rd but he says he knows that already. says he will stay in the team after hanging up his gloves and want’s to see the project through even if he’s not driving anymore

  8. I don’t understand the author’s point about the building facing north. Is this a simple typo and it should have said south? (Which would then make sense.)

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