Aston Martin F1 Team Principal Mike Krack can barely contain his excitement.
He’s minutes away from addressing the team in his Hungarian Grand Prix debrief, but this is no ordinary post-race debrief – Fernando Alonso has just signed for the team.
It’s not every day you announce a two-time World Champion is joining your team and there probably aren’t many better times to chat with the man charged with leading the most ambitious outfit on the Formula One grid.
Five months into his role as Team Principal, we caught up with Mike to reflect on the season so far, the journey the team is on and what lies ahead as we climb together.
So, Mike. Fernando…
He just has that killer instinct. No matter what, you know that Fernando will always give you everything: always push 100 per cent, always extract the maximum from the car and the team. His racecraft is exceptional – a formidable combination of confidence, instinct and intelligence.
Signing Fernando is a clear statement of our intent at Aston Martin F1. We are not on the grid to make up the numbers. We are here to win.
We are on a journey to the front of the grid and Fernando’s decision to join us on that journey – to have a driver of his calibre believe in the Aston Martin F1 project – is a great compliment to our team and the work we are doing.
He will demand a lot from us, but that’s to be expected from a multiple World Champion. Fernando will be a driving force as we climb together and, like everyone in the team, I cannot wait to work with him.
The prospect of having Fernando and Lance in the car next year is a hugely exciting one.
What’s pleased you most about the team so far, and what have you learnt that you can apply in the future?
The teamwork. The teamwork at Aston Martin F1 is outstanding. Everyone is helping each other, everyone is working together and pushing flat out to achieve our goal – to get to the front of the grid.
It makes for an incredibly positive and constructive environment to work in and now we need to channel this incredible team spirit into making a quicker car. Our focus must be on performance – on improving the car – because we already have all the ingredients required to succeed.
Reliability, for example, has been one of our strengths: our car has completed the second-highest amount of laps this season and that says a lot about the quality of our work and our processes – we can deliver a reliable car under pressure.
But the car was not quick enough when we started the season. We’ve been trying to catch up, but our competitors are not standing still either. This has been our biggest challenge in 2022.
Signing Fernando is a clear statement of our intent at Aston Martin F1. We are not on the grid to make up the numbers.
The team has brought significant upgrades to the car in the first part of the season. Can you give an insight into the amount of work and effort required to deliver them?
Every team is bringing upgrades and we’re no different. We’ve made significant upgrades to the car throughout the first part of the season, but it’s all relative.
People assume the upgrades haven’t worked because we haven’t climbed up the competitive order, but the upgrades have worked – just not enough for us to catch up.
It belies the amount of work that’s gone on at the factory and at the track to bring them to the car. People don’t necessarily realise the amount of effort that goes into the design and the production of these parts – and the sheer intensity of the work we’re doing.
We’ve been wrongly accused of copying this season, and the new rear wing we brought to the Hungarian Grand Prix underlined our ability to innovate and steal a march on the opposition by coming up with ideas our rivals haven’t.
A lot of people think it’s easy to just design a new wing, build it and put it on the car. But if you look at the wing, or any of the upgrades we bring to the car, the way they’re engineered, optimised, and produced, it’s an art form.
Plus, you can’t just build one of them, you have to build three or four of the same specification to have enough for both cars and spares.
We brought a major upgrade package to the Spanish Grand Prix – new sidepods, floor, engine cover, modifications to the front suspension – but to deliver enough parts in time so both cars could run in the latest specification…
I’ve never seen anything like that. It was an extraordinary effort from everyone in the team.
When will the team switch focus to developing the 2023 car?
Although we must continue to improve the performance of the AMR22 and we have a small group of people still working on it, we’ve already turned our attention to the AMR23.
Our focus has been on AMR23 for a while now because the car needs to perform right out of the box. A new season and new car represent the biggest opportunity to move ahead of our competitors.
If you don’t give people this freedom, it inhibits the progress of the individual and the team.
How have Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll dealt with the challenges of this season?
They have done very well. Hats off to them because we’ve had some really difficult moments so far this season. The car has been difficult to drive, and it would have been easy for Sebastian and Lance to get frustrated, but they have always remained positive and very professional.
They’ve always been constructive with their feedback, never had a bad word to say about the team, and they’re willing to take ownership of any mistakes they make behind the wheel.
It all comes back to our team ethos: we’re all in this together and will overcome the difficult moments together.
I’m very proud of our drivers and that includes Nico Hülkenberg and Jessica Hawkins who have done so much work with the team and on the simulator, helping to develop the car.
And, of course, Nico did a fantastic job when he drove the car at the first two Grands Prix due to Sebastian testing positive for Covid-19.
Dan Fallows (Technical Director) and Eric Blandin (Deputy Technical Director) are just some of the many talented people who have joined the team this year. How are they settling into life at Aston Martin F1?
Obviously, Dan and Eric are two very important names, but so many talented people are joining the team at all different levels, from graduates to experienced hires.
We have so many graduates and people in the early stages of their career who are really very talented. Their enthusiasm, their cutting-edge knowledge from universities, their ambition; they are the foundation of the team, and they are fundamental to achieving our goals.
Dan and Eric are leaders, they are responsible for guiding the talent we have and creating the right environment for our people to fulfil their potential – to succeed – and contribute to driving the team forward.
If we can channel the brilliance we have in this team, then success is inevitable.
What really helps is that Dan and Eric are great people to work with. They understand the importance of teamwork.
Andrew Green, our Chief Technical Officer, has shown excellent leadership and vision to create an environment where people of the calibre of Dan and Eric have the freedom to unleash their expertise and experience – to do their thing and make their mark.
If you don’t give people this freedom, it inhibits the progress of the individual and the team.
Building the new team factory
The walls are up, the floors are down. Work on our new factory has been relentless. Join Guy Austin, Project Manager, to discover the latest on our future F1 campus and the role of both Aramco and Cognizant in shaping it. As we build for the future, #WeClimbTogether.
What’s the status of the new factory build?
Building One, which will house our design, manufacturing and marketing resource, will be complete in the first quarter of next year. Meanwhile, work has already begun on Building Three, which is where our wind tunnel will be located.
The new wind tunnel and simulator will be ready in 2024. As soon as we’ve moved into Building One, our current factory will be knocked down and replaced by Building Two which will house our simulator, staff amenities and logistics centre.
Having everyone in the team working on the same campus, will be a game changer for team dynamics.
People will feel better integrated: they’ll be able to have face-to-face conversations easier and the space will be much more open, which promotes interaction and dialogue. It’s all about enabling collaboration and teamwork.
Aston Martin F1 has been at the forefront of driving a more progressive agenda in Formula One. Why is it so important for the sport to make sure everyone feels welcome and what can it do to make this a reality?
It’s so important that everyone feels welcome. Everyone’s point of view should be respected, and everyone should be able to share their passion for the sport.
If an F1 team is made up of closed-minded people, it’s hard to find performance. But when a team is full of open-minded people who welcome new ideas – different ways of thinking, different approaches – it becomes much easier to find performance. Diversity of thought is essential for success, and we fully embrace this as a team.
We’ve demonstrated this through our ‘All in. All welcome. All celebrated.’ campaign at the British Grand Prix; our work with Racing Pride in support of the LGBTQ+ community; our ‘Make a Mark’ programme which, together with our title partner Cognizant, sees us inspire the next generation of engineers and open the door to careers motorsport; and our efforts to raise awareness of female underrepresentation in the industry and how we can overcome it.
A new season and new car represent the biggest opportunity to move ahead of our competitors.
We want to get to a point where people say, ‘Wow, I want to be part of the Aston Martin F1 journey. This is an amazing and diverse team of people who share the same passion and values as me, and it’s a team where I feel welcome – where I feel at home.’
It’s already starting to happen, there’s more and more green in the grandstands, and more and more great talents are joining the team.
As for what Formula One can do, I think the answer is in the question: the sport needs to do more, rather than just talk about it. What you do is more important than what you say – that’s how you gain credibility.
It feels like many pieces of the puzzle that Aston Martin F1 needs to succeed are there, they just need to be brought together. Do you allow yourself to imagine what the team can achieve when all the pieces are in place? What do you see?
In the future, I see Aston Martin F1 as a team where success is the norm – I see a team that’s not surprised to be on the podium, that’s not surprised to be winning races. We need to reach a point where we’re constantly delivering excellent results on the track, but also believe in our ability to do so.
We’re talking about building a winning culture here – this takes time – and, first, we have to develop a faster car. Our journey has only just begun and there will be challenges, but the fighting spirit of Aston Martin F1 is second to none and born out of the passion of our people.
It’s a team I’m incredibly proud to be a part of and I’m very excited for what the future holds.
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