At Silverstone, England, across the road from the famed F1 circuit, Aston Martin is constructing an all-new £200m (approx. $240 million) facility that will house its Formula 1 organization.
Once Building 1 of the three-building complex is finished, which is expected to be in May, personnel and equipment will shift from the old factory into the new facility.
The new factory will have its first influence on the team’s 2024 car.
You’d be forgiven for not really noticing the Aston Martin Formula 1 team in 2022.
It endured a dire start to the year, took a best race result of sixth, and finished seventh of 10 teams in the F1 Constructors’ Championship. The most attention it attracted was the focus on and around four-time Sebastian Vettel’s retirement and his replacing, on a multi-year deal, by two-time F1 champ Fernando Alonso.
Finishing between Alfa Romeo and Haas was not what ambitious billionaire Lawrence Stroll dreamed of when he acquired the beleaguered Force India team in mid-2018, nor when he rebranded the squad under the prestigious Aston Martin name for 2021.
At Silverstone—across the road from the home of the British Grand Prix—and where Aston Martin has been based since its nascent days as Jordan in the early 1990s, there is a firm indication of Stroll’s lofty aspirations for the Formula 1 operation.
Aston Martin is constructing an all-new £200m (approx. $240 million) facility that will house its Formula 1 organization, enabling it to bring its expanded team and production onto a single campus, with senior figures expecting it to be a game-changer for its prospects.
Equipped with a fluorescent jacket, a hard hat, and thick boots, Autoweek was among the first external group to be given a glimpse of the project.
And it's an eyeful, to be sure.
Building 1, as it is currently termed, will house the core of the team: composites, electronics, the race bays, the design and production center, mission control, along with meeting rooms and Stroll’s spacious glass-fronted corner office. A central boulevard, of length 160 meters, will be surrounded by the various departments across two levels, with a focus on natural lighting, open-plan design, and maximum visibility of the respective branches, enhancing integration and a sense of community. The technical team will be a critical part of that, taking up almost half of the second floor. That was a deliberate design of Building 1.
"It’s a factor of the small factory here, we have these modular buildings," said Aston Martin’s technical director Dan Fallows. "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, and having them not in the same room just makes it more difficult to communicate.
"Having an open plan office, with the ability to walk around and talk to people easily, makes a huge difference in terms of interaction. In particular those serendipitous chats where you can have a chat with somebody about one thing, and you end up talking about other things, and they often end up being the most creative conversations—and that’s what we’re trying to build really."
Once Building 1 is finished personnel and equipment will shift from the old factory into the new facility across a weekend, expected to take place in May. Undertaking that move during a busy period of racing is far from ideal, with the August shutdown ostensibly simpler, but Aston Martin wants to move in as soon as possible. That means the benefits of the new factory can have a greater influence on the team’s 2024 car.
Demolition of the old factory will begin almost immediately after the move in order to commence construction of Building 2. That will house Aston Martin’s "wellness" elements, such as the staff restaurant and a fitness studio, as well as its new simulator and Esports department.
Building 3, which is currently under construction, will house the wind tunnel. That is expected to be commissioned mid-2023 and should be operational by mid-2024 in order to give the first benefits to the 2025 car.
The three buildings will be linked by bridges, ensuring internal access between the trio is possible, while outside Aston Martin plans to cultivate wild meadows, plant 1,500 trees and install ponds for rainwater collection. There will also be a running track in the shape of nearby Silverstone.
The benefits are expected to be multi-layered.
"We will make a step there,” said Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack on the improved efficiency of the new factory because the existing facility "is costing quite a lot due to different locations, and in terms of logistics and building rentals. You have the ability (with the new facility) to make everything yourself but you have the ability to decide: do you buy or make it? And you can make it faster—if you can make them (the parts) also cheaper it means you can make more, and maybe have one or two upgrades more due to time and due to financial reasons you couldn’t do before, so I think it is a good step."
Fallows agrees that improved efficiency will be crucial because "one of the things that marks out a competitive team is its ability to turn things around quickly: to go from design to reality in the shortest possible time. There’s great leaps forwards you can make in efficiency with that type of facility, and obviously in a cost cap world anything you can do to maximize efficiency of the cost of those parts is worth doing."
Aston Martin is also expecting to profit from the new facility being a smart factory in terms of the data gathering of the manufacturing process.
"We have the ability to be much more detailed in terms of the analytics," Fallows said. "That details the production process, and analyzes it in a way that allows us to improve (processes" much more than using external people.” The wind tunnel will be “a world class facility," according to Fallows. And even though time will be restricted per regulations— and access decreased on the sliding scale if Aston Martin improves its results—it permits “other experiments as well, which is invaluable, and it’s something we don’t necessarily have the luxury of doing at the moment when you’re sharing with another team."
Krack and Fallows themselves are indicators of Aston Martin’s new outlook. They both joined in 2022, Krack to replace Otmar Szafnauer as team boss, while Fallows eventually took up his role following a protracted departure from Red Bull Racing.
Aston Martin has expanded since Stroll’s buyout, from around 400 to 650-700 employees, with other notable signings including Eric Blandin from Mercedes, Luca Furbatto from Alfa Romeo, and Fallows’ former Red Bull colleague Andrew Alessi. They have integrated within Aston Martin’s existing personnel; technical chief Andrew Green, a stalwart of ‘Team Silverstone’ for decades, became chief technical officer, overseeing its expansion and evolution away from an underfunded underdog.
"This team has grown from something relatively small in size to… you’ve seen the ambition, the size we’ve now grown to and want to get to in terms of how we’re operating and developing the car, and that is a journey," said Fallows. “What I have seen is a passionate and talented group of people, some of whom have been here a very long time and have a huge amount of experience, so the main thing for us is to make sure we draw on that experience and passion and don’t destroy that, at the same time as trying to grow into a race-winning team."
That has led to influence from different backgrounds and from various teams, though there is an awareness of striking the right balance.
"The important thing for us is to make sure we don’t just replicate what our competitors are doing," said Fallows. "We don’t believe that is going to help us overtake the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, and we have to develop our own way of doing things. That does take time, but we’ve got a hugely ambitious group of people, and one of the things about seeing the new factory come together is it demonstrates this momentum, this wish to kind of accelerate the process of moving up the grid and starting to get into a winning situation."
Aston Martin’s highest-profile recruit, Alonso, will get a tour of the emerging facility once he is permitted in January. His existing contractual arrangements preclude an earlier start, but he was allowed by Alpine to test Aston Martin’s AMR22—without any sponsor logos on the car—in Abu Dhabi last week, and both sides have been satisfied with initial impressions.
“He was very impressive,” said Krack. “Very impressive at the efficiency of transmitting the messages, it was straight to the point at all times, and very friendly and open, transparent, I think in both directions. We are very pleased with how this day went.”
Krack was effusive about what Alonso can bring to his new surroundings.
"I think with Fernando I always hold up this picture of the Mexican Grand Prix of his frustration at not finishing seventh—this is an example of dedication and motivation," he said. "If you have someone with this passion and drive to win it has an impact on the team, we could really see that, how everyone was really happy to have this guy in the car last Tuesday. He ignites another spark from his own passion and desire to win onto the team."
Alonso described his fresh start as "a completely different project, and I’m so happy" before outlining "the potential of the team, and the talent that I see in the engineering room" as "outstanding." He went on to affirm that he was "much more optimistic" about Aston Martin’s chances after his day in the AMR22. "When I signed for Aston I was 90% happy, when they started improving and finished the season on a high I was 100%, now (after the test) I’m 100 plus.”
This remains a long-term project. Aston Martin’s targets for 2023, Krack says, "are internal so I won’t disclose this," but that "we need to see a clear improvement, a clear step in performance." Fallows says Aston Martin will take "a very aggressive development strategy" with its AMR23 based off the lessons learned in 2022, in which it started terribly but re-established a midfield presence.
Nevertheless, it is not heading into 2023 expecting to win, nor realistically will it do so in 2024, but by the 2025 season it will have its multi-million-dollar facility established, the infrastructure up and running, and its personnel firmly in place.
That will be year five of Stroll’s initial five-year plan, with competing for victories and the world championship a target, one which Aston Martin is striving to realize.