Fed up with uninspiring, overly PR'd, copy-and-paste F1 interviews? Our new series, UNDERCUT, takes you deeper. Raw, insightful and honest, we cut to the chase with those at the heart of Aston Martin F1, asking them the questions you really want the answers to.
In the first instalment, Team Principal Mike Krack talks candidly about the move that blew the Formula One driver market wide open, served as a clear statement of intent from AMF1 and had everyone talking over the summer break.
How did the deal to sign Fernando come together?
We were always focused on Sebastian [Vettel], but we pushed for an answer from him before the summer break – because the longer such discussions go on, the more you get into problems.
The ball only really started rolling on the Wednesday afternoon before the Hungarian Grand Prix, when Sebastian confirmed his plans and told us he wanted to retire.
We formally reached out to Fernando later the next day. A few days later, the deal was done.
What convinced him to join the team?
Fernando is a machine – a racing machine. He's totally focused on racing. He's determined to perform and compete at the highest level and sees Aston Martin F1 as the team that will enable him to do that.
Fernando sees the potential of the team – the new facilities we're building, the people we're hiring, the investment being made, the steps forward the Aston Martin brand is taking – and he sees it as an opportunity.
Aston Martin F1 is the best opportunity for him to achieve his ambitions.
Fernando is determined to perform and compete at the highest level and sees Aston Martin F1 as the team that will enable him to do that.
Will he be the clear number one driver?
No. Fernando and Lance will have equal status. Fernando didn't ask for anything like that.
There's been talk in the media of him being offered things like number one status and a huge salary, but I can assure you Fernando is not doing it for either the status or the paycheque.
Of course, the package has to be commensurate with a driver of Fernando's calibre and experience, but the speed with which the agreement was made tells you that things like salary or the detail of the deal were not the prime motivators for Fernando.
He said it himself before the break: when both parties want to agree on something, it only takes 10 minutes.
What convinced Fernando is the opportunity to be part of a team that's progressing and where he can make a real impact.
Aston Martin F1 is in year two of its five-year plan to reach the front of the grid and Fernando is 41 years old. Is time not on his side?
I don't see Fernando's age as an issue. For me, it doesn't change a thing. He should be judged on his speed and performance on track – and it's clear he's as good as ever. Besides, isn't 40 the new 30?
I turned 50 this year and people keep telling me it's the new 40. If that's true, then Fernando is only 31!
I wouldn't rule out the possibility that there are ample years ahead together, if we can make the progress we need with the competitiveness of the car.
We underperformed as a team last season and this season; we know we must deliver a frontrunning car.
And what if the team doesn't deliver a frontrunning car or make progress quickly enough? Fernando has never been one to pull any punches.
The most important thing is to be transparent and honest; Fernando is a straight talker. But it's also important to remember that drivers like Fernando have only achieved what they have because they keep asking questions – they keep pushing, they keep wanting more.
I'd be worried – and disappointed – if he wasn't like this. However, Fernando shouldn't be the first to ask these questions, we should be asking them ourselves.
We need to be prepared; we need to be able to anticipate what he's going to ask for. What ideas might he have? What might he want from the car? What processes might he like the team to have in place? What was he doing at other teams that he thinks we should also be doing?
If we already have the answers or are as well prepared as we can be for these questions, then Fernando will know we are on top of things – he will know that we are giving our all, which is what he expects from himself and those around him.
Drivers like Fernando have only achieved what they have because they keep asking questions.
Do I think it will be easy to manage Fernando? No, not at all. It won't be easy. He will challenge us and constantly push for more – that's the nature of a true champion – but you can be sure he'll get the maximum out of the car.
If we want to grow and become a top team, we have to be able to manage these kinds of characters. Fernando is exactly what we need.
And what about Lance? How will he cope with Fernando as his team-mate?
People underestimate how good Lance is – they think he's only here because his father owns the team and put him in the car.
But you don't do as well as he has against a four-time World Champion by accident, and you don't win as many junior single-seater championships as he has by accident either.
It's important to remember that Lance has never really had a winning car in Formula One, a car in which he can show what he's capable of – to really deliver on his talent. It's up to us to give him and Fernando that.
When Sebastian joined the team, people were saying Lance had no chance, but Lance has performed incredibly well against a four-time World Champion – they've been closely matched.
People are saying the same thing now that Fernando is joining the team, but let's wait and see. Lance might just surprise a few people...
Lance has never really had a winning car in F1 in which he can show what he's capable of – to really deliver on his talent.
I don't know if Fernando underestimates Lance, he's certainly not scared of going up against him in the same car – or any other driver for that matter – but there's a respect between them.
They've known each other for many years, they've raced against each other, and Fernando knows the qualities Lance has. There's real respect there.
All in. All welcome. All celebrated. Sign up to open up a world of I / AM benefits and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.