Martin Whitmarsh returns to Formula 1 with Aston Martin in pretty much the same role he had at McLaren namely CEO, but the day-to-day running of Lawrence Stroll’s team will remain in the hands of Otmar Szafnauer.
One of Ron Dennis’ big decisions, in the final days of his downfall when in charge of the team he built, was to oust Whitmarsh at the end of the 2013 season whereafter he went off the F1 radar, rarely speaking publicly about the sport or his former team.
He went on to become CEO of Olympic Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup challenge until November 2017, when he took on an advisory role. A month later he was tasked by FIA to consult on cost-cutting in motorsport.
Whitmarsh is also part of the Hamilton Commission, launched by his former driver (now seven-time F1 world champion) Lewis Hamilton, and sits on the advisory board of Formula E.
Last month, billionaire Stroll announced that Whitmarsh was hired to the position of CEO he now occupies at Aston Martin Performance Technologies.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, team principal Szafnauer explained how team management will operate in future: “The F1 side will remain under my leadership and remit. So I’ll still be team principal and CEO. Martin will be group CEO, with the F1 side reporting through him.
“I guess the only thing that hasn’t been planned is how much of his time because he’s got the entire group, does he spend on each one of those entities.
“I would imagine at the beginning most of his time will be spent growing the Aston Martin Performance Technologies area, which is where his most recent expertise lies, and not focus so much on F1. But the bit that hasn’t been planned is how much of his time will be spent where.”
Sazfanuer credits Whitmarsh’s vast experience in F1 – which included presidency of the (now defunct) Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) – as a big plus for the building of a potent team with huge ambitions.
“He was there at McLaren when they started doing that, so he’s got that experience, and he can lead us to shortcuts in doing that.
“He’s also had seven years now of boat racing experience, including starting a new company that is taking technologies from boat racing and moving that technology into I think cargo ships.
“And it’s an applied technology type business, technology transfer. He’s got good experience in that, and he’ll help us shortcut the development of our performance technology business,” added Szafnauer.
The American joined Honda when the Japanese manufacturer returned to the top flight in 2001, remaining with the F1 team until 2008.
Szafnauer moved to the Force India team in 2009 where he has remained through the transition from Vijay Mallya’s operation to Stroll’s Racing Point venture, which since morphed into the Aston Martin dream team being built right now at Silverstone