Aston Martin’s Formula 1 chief executive Martin Whitmarsh said leading the British manufacturer to title success would rank as the greatest achievement of his storied career.
The Briton, who spent 24 years with McLaren winning a combined 10 Drivers’ and Constructors’ Titles before being ousted in 2014, returned to F1 in his current role last October.
The target set by Canadian billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll is clear – win the championship.
“For me, to see a great brand, Aston Martin, up on the top step of the Formula 1 podium will be incredibly satisfying,” Whitmarsh, still McLaren’s last title-winning team boss having won the 2008 title with Lewis Hamilton, told Reuters in an interview.
“Frankly that’s why I’m here,” added the 63-year-old, who after leaving McLaren spent a stint as chief executive of Olympic yachtsman Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup challenge.
Formula 1 is an ‘Addictive Topic’
Stroll, who bought the Silverstone-based team out of administration in 2018 when it was called Force India and rebranded it Aston Martin last year, has big ambitions for the British marque, which finished seventh in the overall standings last year.
He has set the team the target of fighting for the championship within five years and is building a new factory and wind tunnel. The 2022 season is the second year of that plan.
Hiring Whitmarsh, together with other top names from rival teams as well as four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, underscores those ambitions.
As chief executive of the newly-created Aston Martin Performance Technologies, which includes the F1 team, Whitmarsh has a wide remit.
But, even though the British marque signed former BMW motorsport head Mike Krack as its new F1 team principal, his time has been consumed transforming the squad from a midfield outfit punching above its weight into a genuine front-runner.
“Formula 1 is quite an addictive topic, I have to say,” said Whitmarsh. “So at the moment I’m giving quite a lot of time and energy to that.
“Therefore I’m going to be pretty involved. I think I have a reasonable amount of influence on the success or otherwise of the team in the coming years.”
F1 has undergone significant change
When Whitmarsh left F1 in 2014, he said he was saddened by the state it was in. The sport he returns to has undergone significant change.
Commercial rights holders Liberty Media have expanded its reach to new fans, while the success of Netflix show ‘Drive to Survive’ has seen its popularity soar in the hard-to-crack U.S. market.
The sport has committed to achieving net-zero carbon status by 2030, it has rolled out a diversity and inclusion platform and there is now an enforceable cost cap in place, which Whitmarsh played a role in formulating.
“I think Formula 1 has been a little bit arrogant, a little bit inward looking in the past,” he said.
“What it’s really learnt is we have to be relevant to society, to the needs of society, otherwise you just don’t make that connection.”
F1’s growing appeal has drawn in a wave of new sponsors, particularly from America and the Middle East. Aston Martin has partnered with Saudi energy company Aramco, already a major F1 sponsor.
The sport’s move towards using 100% sustainable fuels by 2025, giving oil companies a test-bed to develop sustainable fuels for the road, was key to the deal.
“Actually in a racing team, there’s an opportunity to apply directly those technologies for example together,” said Aramco chief technology officer Ahmad Al Khowaiter.