Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer has said that Aston face “approximately nine months’ work” before they may come to a decision over a potential entry into Formula 1 as an engine supplier for the 2021 season.
At the start of the calendar year, Palmer told of his excitement over the new engine regulations that are set to take place in three years’ time, saying that the company have already had interest from “several teams” over an engine deal. Aston Martin Red Bull Racing are the team most intimately linked to them currently, the prestigious British marque became the team’s title sponsor for the 2018 season. In return, Red Bull have formed a technical partnership with Aston’s hypercar division to create the Valkyrie, set to enter production this year.
However, Palmer said that Aston Martin must convince themselves that they are capable of making a competitive Formula 1 engine before any potential deal with Red Bull can take shape – his timeline says that they may come in the early months of 2019.
“We’re looking at 2021, so it’s somewhere down the road,” said Palmer, who joined Aston in 2014, speaking to Autosport.
“But if we can’t pass the ‘it’s OK for Red Bull test’ then that probably means we’re not passing the ‘it’s competitive’ test, and it has to be competitive.”
Palmer elaborated on the work required in order to reach that stage, saying that a duration of nine months’ is a reasonable estimation.
“There’s approximately nine months’ work in front of us to convince ourselves one way or the other,” he added.
“You’ve got simulation tools and single cylinder work, and that gives you a pretty accurate correlation between the testing world and the simulation world.”
Last year, Aston recruited former Scuderia Ferrari engine boss Luca Marmorini as a consultant to the project and Palmer says that the concept is building momentum amongst the company, but the 54-year-old still wants the proposed new regulations to be clarified before making a decision. The most pertinent issue lies in a potential cost cap.
“Nothing has come along that’s deflected the probability, nothing’s been put in place that says we can’t do it anymore,” he said.
“So we continue to do as much pre-study as we can in the context of what we understand of the regulations, which are not fully detailed. We can at least size up the opportunity now.
“The bit that we don’t know about the regs is the cost cap, and that’s an integral part of our decision to come into the sport or not.
“We don’t have money to burn.
“It has to be a better return, let’s say, than straightforward sponsorship, and that’s a key part of the decision.”
Despite rumours of a collaboration with esteemed F1 suppliers Ilmor or Cosworth, Palmer is adamant that Aston will have a direct influence on the engine, saying that the company can now be seen as an engine designer and manufacturer. However, he has heeded the warning given by Honda, who have taken three full seasons of development to produce a reliable engine for new partners, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda.
“It brings authenticity, doesn’t it? We have the likes of Luca as a consultant to work with us, and help us through,” said Palmer. “He’s done it before, he has a lot of credibility, a lot of understanding, and he can guide us.
“It’s not easy, we’re not looking it from a naïve point of view. But we are an engine manufacturer and designer. The Valkyrie engine is an example of that, so we’re not starting from scratch.
“Honda proved how hard it is. But at the same time you can start to see them improving.”