PREVIEW: The Walk Gets Serious

PREVIEW: The Walk Gets Serious

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“I said that to get back to victory, you need four things…”, says Lawrence Stroll after explaining his work so far with Aston Martin.
“You need tools – we’ll have the best new building and the best new wind tunnel. You need people – which we are constantly announcing every week, reinforcing our already strong staff, because what this team was already capable of doing with 400-500 people before I arrived on a budget significantly lower than that of the best teams; that famous expression, ‘punch above their weight’ …

“With the best tools and the best people, you need the best processes in any business to win, and that’s the discipline, the management, the winning culture – something that I’ve been able to do. instill very well in my previous organizations; And finally, you need muscle and financial power to be able to fund points 1, 2, and 3.

“So we tick all four boxes of how we go forward. I have a very clear vision. I’ve been playing this sport in one way or another for 32 years, so I’m not really a newcomer. As in my previous companies, I wanted to bring this winning culture to this company.

It was a strong opening bet. He is a man accustomed to success and who reap the rewards from a financial point of view. Formula 1 teams rarely make big fortunes, but Stroll doesn’t tell the media how serious he is about making money in F1. He tells us how serious he is about winning.

It couldn’t be much clearer when it comes to Aston Martin’s plans for a new plant. COVID struck last year and threatened the existence of some teams, and team manager Otmar Szafnauer admitted he had also put the factory project on hold. Some revisions were going to be needed with COVID in mind, but it wasn’t downscaling of any kind – it was an increase.

“We currently have around 500 employees,” says Stroll. “When I took over Force India, we had around 400, so we increased by around 100. And it’s not just the quantity, it’s the quality. In Formula 1, it takes time to find people – contracts, gardening holidays, etc. – but we plan to increase that number to around 800 people.

“The most important thing for this is to find a home for our 800 people. In fact, we recently started and got into the ground at Silverstone recently with our new plant which will be open in about 20 months. The first new factory in Formula 1 for nearly 20 years, it will cover nearly 200,000 square feet. At the cutting edge of technology, built to use …

“And on top of that, in order to be able to fight consistently for the world championships, we realized that we also needed our own wind tunnel. Another big expense, but we have already started the process, so in the next 20/22 months at most we will have our brand new state-of-the-art facility and the best new state-of-the-art wind tunnel.

Stroll’s championship ambitions for his team are supported by huge investments in infrastructure and people. Image by Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

The last part is a bit of a turnaround, as previously Technical Director Andrew Green – recently promoted to the new Technical Director – had said that a wind tunnel was not needed due to the reduction in time crews are allowed to run. execute. But Stroll clearly trusts Green, and even doesn’t care that he’s changed his mind on something that could cost north of $ 50 million.

“He came back to me and said, ‘I realize that there is potential for improvement in the time and availability that we currently have with Mercedes compared to the luxury we might have from using the ours “, and he said” If you really want to be world champion this is a tool that we will need “.

“So he changed his tone. It cost me a little money that change in tone too. I was happy with his first concept!

It shows just how determined Stroll is. There is an alliance with Mercedes – and a strong alliance – which currently has Aston using its wind tunnel, but the Canadian billionaire is not involved in F1 just to promote the iconic car brand he also owns in the most economical way. . To do so, he would have kept the team that was widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound team in F1 in its previous state.

Instead, this staff expansion included the clearly expensive hires of a number of senior Red Bull executives, as well as Alfa Romeo chief designer Luca Furbatto, to work under Green, while the latter addition was Honda’s seasoned Mark White as COO.

Some may start earlier than others – Red Bull are keen to keep Dan Fallows on board for a number of years until his contract expires – but that’s not a major concern for Stroll either. He’s been in F1 long enough and knows his investments need time to come in and fall into place.

“I think it’s four, five, six years,” he says. “We’re in a good position right now / We share the Mercedes wind tunnel, so we’re in one of the best wind tunnels – it’s not as good as having yours, but it’s not like we’re sacrificing being in a bad situation. wind tunnel.

“From a facilities point of view, we have definitely overtaken our facilities. We are setting up many temporary installations around our site in order to be able to accommodate all these new hires. I think we’ll be in a new location in 20 months – the end of next year.

“So we don’t compromise on anything. In Formula 1, like in any other business, I don’t think you can reasonably expect to win for four or five years. I think that’s really what it takes.

It’s a very calm prospect for a team that has seemed anything but calm in the speed and scale of their expansion and investments in recent years. But that’s because Stroll says he’s ready to stick his elbows out to get what he wants for Aston Martin, tapping into the areas the budget cap allows him to, and not being afraid to say what he thinks.

“I don’t know if I think it’s (fair) Formula 1, but obviously there are a lot of very strong personalities and a lot of very smart people,” he said. “If you’re going to be a push-around, for lack of a better word, I don’t think you’re going to be successful in this sport or any other sport. So I don’t know if I’ve been a disruptor. I stood up for what I believe to be correct.

“I did not make this important investment in this company so as not to fight for the world championships. So we’re going to do whatever it takes, within the rules of course, and being a gentleman. I don’t think we’ve done something that no other team would do to try to build a fantastic organization.

“And I speak when I think something is wrong. “

Stroll might be talked about a lot in the future, but given the investment so far, chances are it will be more often when something has gone well.

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