After a COVID-enforced two-year delay, Aston Martin’s ground breaking ceremony last week to begin work on its new state-of-the-art Formula 1 factory and campus marks an important moment.
With owner Lawrence Stroll making clear his lofty ambitions to be world championship winners in the next three to five years, he understands that the team could not keep going as it was.
Still operating out of the Silverstone facilities that originally housed Jordan Grand Prix in 1991, Aston Martin’s increasing reliance on temporary offices has left it in a state where, if it is truly serious about winning world titles, it’s no longer fit for purpose.
As a result, Stroll has signed off on an ambitious 400,000 square foot campus plan to be built on the land he has acquired around the current premises.
This will include a factory, wind tunnel, conference centre, auditorium, heritage department and other offices.
As well as being fully sustainable, it will feature state-of-the-art 5G facilities and the latest technology to ensure that Aston Martin can be right at the forefront of the latest advances.
With a final cost estimated somewhere between £150 million - £200 million, it is hoped that the team will be able to move in at the end of 2022 or in early 2023.
The Aston Martin facility will be the first all-new factory constructed from the ground up in F1 since the McLaren Technology Centre was opened in 2004.
But whereas the famous MTC was laid out in the vision of Ron Dennis as a truly spectacular statement of intent for the Woking-based organisation, there is somewhat an argument of it being fashion over function.
While still looking amazing, it’s been cited as having a sometimes sterile atmosphere inside, and has struggled at times to adapt to the fast-changing needs of a modern F1 and automotive operation despite its immense size.
Stroll sees his vision for the Aston Martin campus as the complete opposite – of a place that is designed not because it looks good but because it delivers exactly what the staff needs.
That means better communication, speeded up processes to push forward with car development and a facility that is big enough for the 1000 personnel that Stroll hopes to have on board over the next few years.
Speaking about the new factory to selected media, Stroll said: “This is the reverse of what Ron Dennis did with [architect] Norman Foster, with the McLaren Technology Centre.
“This is a business, this is factories, and a campus, fit for purpose to match the DNA, and the culture of ourselves, of our history.
“The purpose what it's been built for is to be able to be efficient, and to be streamlined. And again have everybody sitting side-by-side under one roof.
“This is taking into consideration the new financial regulations, and also taking into consideration where we believe this sport will be going in the future.
“So we can build more bays if we want, we can shrink too: but not by shrinking the size of the building, but moving people closer together. This is a building that will truly represent our image, our culture and our DNA.”
Stroll is clear that without pushing on with the new factory, then Aston Martin would have been left struggling to keep up with the progress that he wants to see on track.
“With the current factory, it would have really been difficult,” he said. “We're right now adding these temporary offices, little buildings that you put down on the ground to house the constantly growing workforce we have.
“The communication isn't the best because everybody's dislocated all around various parts of the factory. So, the improvement in communications and research development, in design, it was a necessity.
“We could not continue to grow, to the headcount I want to grow to, with the existing premises. Not possible.”
But beyond the clear benefits Stroll sees for Aston Martin staff in having the new campus, what it also makes clear is just how committed he is to the F1 project.
With the Silverstone-based team having run through a series of owners in its times since Eddie Jordan sold out – under its Midland, Spyker and Force India eras – Stroll says he intends to be around for the long haul.
“This is a long term investment,” he said. “No offence to any of my predecessors, none of them have my history or the track record of the successes I had.
“I'm clearly passionate about this. This is a great business opportunity. I see Formula 1, as a business value of each individual team, significantly appreciating in the years to come.
“It’s not any different to any other sports assets, if you look at an NFL football team for example. Ten years ago, an NFL football team was worth a billion dollars, but today you can't buy a franchise for less than $4 or $5 billion. So this is a long term plan.
“This is something I plan on being involved with, because I'm still a young man, I believe I am at least, for many, many years to come. You don't make this kind of investment, and this plan, to retreat in any way, shape or form.”
And, while Liberty’s F1 era will be defined by its attempts to level the playing field on the grid in terms of finances and performance, Stroll is clear that there is still no cut-price way to the front of the grid.
If you want to come out on top in F1, you need to dig into your pockets.
“I think money always talks very loud, doesn't it? And It will continue to,” he said.
“We all know about the budget cap, and we also are all very realistic of all these exclusions, not included in the budget cap.
“For us, this campus was long overdue. Again covid costs us two years, otherwise we'd already be completed, or close to completion.
“But in order to compete to win, which is what I am here for, this tool is 100 percent needed.
“What you need to win, is you need the right leadership and vision, which I believe I bring. You need to finances to be able to afford it, you need the best people in the industry, and you need to give them the best tools and processes.
“We already have a lot of great people, but this is delivering the tools and the processes in order to recruit the ones we don't have.
“Plus I can give them my guidance, and the senior management team’s guidance and leadership, in order to fulfil all of our dreams.”
Aston Martin Campus
Photo by: Aston Martin Racing