Aston Martin: ‘Incompatibility’ with Mercedes sparked Honda union

Aston Martin Group CEO Martin Whitmarsh has revealed the team's desire for self-reliance has led to the exit of Mercedes and arrival of Honda

Aston Martin Group CEO Martin Whitmarsh has revealed the team’s desire for self-reliance has led to the exit of Mercedes and arrival of Honda

Martin Whitmarsh has explained that a growing incompatibility with Mercedes has led to Aston Martin’s desire to seek self-reliance and form a power unit partnership with Honda in 2026.

The decision ends what will eventually be a 17-season partnership between the team and Mercedes stretching back to 2009 when the former was initially known as Force India before morphing into Racing Point and currently Aston Martin.

What has become clear to Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll, however, is that to achieve his stated ambition of becoming F1 champions, the team has to be self-reliant, and that means breaking away from its long-term relationship with Mercedes.

Aston Martin will become a full Honda works team, albeit retaining its brand identity, with the target of emulating the success of Red Bull’s partnership with Honda before the Japanese manufacturer’s withdrawal from F1 at the end of 2021.

Whitmarsh, group CEO of  Aston Martin Performance Technologies, said: “We currently have a great partnership, and we have great components and systems provided to us (by Mercedes).

“But this is about the growing up of this team. You set out to win in Formula 1, and that means beating existing partners, and in order to do that, we’ve got to be independent.

“We’re building great, great facilities, and we’re progressively pulling away from our dependence upon Mercedes Benz.

“That’s no reflection on them. They’ve done a fantastic job for us, they continue to do a great job for us but we’re here to beat them, and that means we’ve got to be self-reliant.”

Full works relationship crucial for Aston Martin

Asked by Speedcafe during a select media press conference whether the team felt it would be unable to achieve Stroll’s ambitions if it remained with Mercedes, Whitmarsh detailed the difficulties in continuing as a customer.

“They’re in it to win, and clearly, we’re here to win as well, so ultimately, there is some incompatibility in those two missions, and that’s why we’ve taken this decision,” said Whitmarsh.

“The first and obvious example was, we currently share a wind tunnel with them, and yet, we’re having to spend a huge amount of money to build our own wind tunnel, which is only four or five miles from the wind tunnel – a quite adequate one – that we use.

“But the nature of Formula 1 is if you want to win, it means beating Mercedes, and it’s extremely difficult to beat an organisation as good as Mercedes if you’re reliant on them for intellectual property, facilities, components.

“‘Team Silverstone’, as you know, has a great tradition of delivering big bang for small bucks.

“But we are in a different position now – the Aston Martin brand, the ambition of Lawrence stroll, and now great partners like Honda, we are here to win.

“Therefore, you’ve got to have the complete integration of facilities, processes, and approach.

“The 2026 technical regulations are really going to demand a very, very substantial, full integration, and not just the sort of physical integration of components, but the operational integration, to be able to deliver and to win, to a much greater extent.

“So in my view, it is very, very difficult to consistently win championships without a full works relationship, which is why we’ve made this decision and why we’re delighted to have a fantastic partner like Honda.”

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