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The “incompatibility” that drove Aston and Honda F1 deal



It solves the dilemma of having all the benefits of an engineered engine without having to build one from scratch in Aston’s name, while also eliminating the need to share powerplants and other related components with key competitors .

In the words of Aston Martin Performance Technologies chief executive Martin Whitmarsh, relying on a supplier who also wants to beat you on track creates an “incompatibility”.

The Honda deal is the final piece of the puzzle that has gradually become clear since Stroll took over “Team Silverstone” in the summer of 2018. He hired the best engineers he could get, signed Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, and invested in a new factory and wind tunnel. Now he has solved the powerplant problem.

On the surface, Stroll appears to have formed the perfect partnership with Mercedes, whose parent company also owns a substantial stake in Aston Martin Lagonda Road Cars. The PU, gearbox and rear suspension kit from the winning outfit is a convenient starting point, allowing the team to focus on everything else.

This philosophy has worked well from the early days of Force India (initially using gearboxes and extra input from McLaren) to the days of Racing Point and now the days of Aston Martin. In those years the team sometimes had the best car in fourth place, but was always behind the main teams.

Aston has taken such a big step this year that the AMR23 is regularly the second-best car, ahead of Mercedes and Ferrari. This form could suggest that the next step in beating Red Bull and using the Mercedes customer package to win races and titles is within the team’s grasp.

In fact, there could be further progress on the currently scheduled final two seasons before Honda arrives in 2026.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photography: Steven Tee / motorsport pictures

However, Mercedes and Ferrari are underperforming in 2023, while Aston – making no mistake – is arguably flattered to some extent. In order to beat these teams and Red Bull with distinction and consistency, the team had to find a way to break free from the constraints of Mercedes and find a new path, not limited by, for example, other gearboxes and suspension architectures.

The desire to take control of its own destiny in terms of power unit supply has always been embraced by the team. In late 2014, McLaren boss Ron Dennis gave an interesting insight into what he was thinking at the time. McLaren used a Mercedes hybrid engine for a transition season before switching to Honda, and Dennis watched with dismay as the factory team dominated.

He claimed McLaren didn’t have the opportunity to fully utilize the Brixworth power unit due to lack of access to the data, and he even suggested the team didn’t have the “best engine”. His words made it clear that the team’s 20-year partnership with Mercedes was coming to an end under serious pressure.

“My view, the view held by many in our organization, is that if you don’t get the best engine from the people who built your engine, you have no chance of winning a world championship,” he said.

“At this moment, the engine of a modern grand prix is ​​not just about pure power, it’s about how you collect energy, it’s about how you store energy, and if you don’t have control over the process – meaning access to the source code – then you will Not being able to stabilize your car on corner entrances etc and you’re going to lose a lot of lap time.

“Even if you have the same brand of engine, it doesn’t mean you have the ability to optimize the engine. So you have to put yourself in the position to have the best engine first.

“That’s what we’ve been doing for the next few years. We have a good partnership with Mercedes, but we intend to do it with Honda.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff shrugged off Dennis’ accusations. Since then, regulations have become stricter, and client engines must be identical to those of the associated work team and run with the same parameters. So the suspicion that you’re not getting an equivalent device is less valid than it was then.

Dennis’ argument in favor of an engineering deal might carry more weight if he focused less on pure performance and more on the obvious benefit of having a dedicated partner – the ability to fully integrate your chassis and engine package.

However, McLaren and Honda failed to do so during their disastrous liaison in 2015-2017, with miscommunication exacerbating weaknesses in their respective technology products.

Max Verstappen to drive Honda-powered Red Bull in 2021

Max Verstappen to drive Honda-powered Red Bull in 2021

Photography: Zak Mauger / motorsport pictures

When it fell apart and the Japanese manufacturer was dumped by Woking, Red Bull was more than happy to step in.

Christian Horner is also well aware of the drawbacks of being an engine customer, often giving the impression that RBR won the world championship despite not because of its former engine supplier Renault.

In contrast, Red Bull and Honda quickly forged an effective and open technical partnership that could still achieve more by the end of 2025.

After that, Red Bull will take full control of its own destiny with its own Ford-backed powerplant, while Aston Martin will get the full Honda-backed job and all the associated benefits.

“Mercedes has been a great partner to the team,” Whitmarsh said. “They still do. They’re here to win. We’re here to win, obviously. So at the end of the day, there’s some incompatibility between the two missions. That’s why we took the decision.

“I think the first obvious example is that we currently share a wind tunnel with them. However, we have to spend a lot of money to build our own wind tunnel, which is only four or five miles away from the fairly suitable wind tunnel we use .

“But the nature of F1 is that if you want to win, it means beating Mercedes, and if you rely on Mercedes’ intellectual property, facilities and components, beating an organization as good as Mercedes. is extremely difficult.

“As you know, Silverstone has a great tradition of achieving big bangs with little cost. But we’re in a different position now, with the Aston Martin brand, the ambitions of Lawrence Stroll, and now the greats like Honda. Partners, we’re here to win.

“So you have to fully integrate facilities, processes and methods.”

Whitmarsh says it's time for Aston to step out of Mercedes' shadow

Whitmarsh says it’s time for Aston to step out of Mercedes’ shadow

Photography: Zak Mauger / motorsport pictures

Under the next set of regulations, close collaboration between the polyurethane and chassis worlds will become more important than ever, says Whitmarsh.

“I think the 2026 technical regulations do require very, very substantial full integration,” he said. “And not just the physical integration of components, but the operational integration that delivers and wins to a greater extent.

“In my opinion, it’s very, very difficult to consistently win titles without a full working relationship and that’s why we made this decision and why we’re happy to have a great partner like Honda.”

A key step for Aston now is to establish its own gearbox design and build facility before moving to Honda, something that Aston has not had in-house for years due to supply deals with McLaren and later Mercedes .

Sauber has had to make a similar move – after years of using Ferrari, it is now building its own team in preparation for the transition to Audi in 2026.

“The 2026 chassis regulations haven’t been finalized yet,” Whitmarsh said when asked about the gearbox. “I hope sanity will prevail. We will choose to simplify very complex transmissions. But we are currently recruiting and we are facing the challenges you highlighted.

“We have a great partnership at the moment. We have great components and systems that are given to us. But it’s about growing this team. You’re going to win in F1 and that means beating the existing partners. This means that in order to do this, we must be independent.

Honda and Astion Martin Racing F1 Team

Honda and Astion Martin Racing F1 Team

Photo: Aston Martin Racing

“We’re building fantastic facilities, we’re moving away from Mercedes-Benz and that’s not reflected in them. They’ve done a fantastic job for us and they’ll continue to do a fantastic job for us. work. But obviously we’re here to beat them. That means we have to be self-reliant.”

Working partnerships depend on good communication to work successfully. Whitmarsh’s knowledge of Honda dates back to 1989 and the quieter days of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

He later persuaded the Japanese manufacturer to rejoin McLaren in the hybrid era, although he left the team before the partnership began.

This breakdown in the relationship was due in large part to miscommunication and the early onset of a blame culture. Whitmarsh watched how it unfolded as a well-connected outsider who wouldn’t let Aston make the same mistake.

“I think you have to build a partnership of mutual respect,” he said. “I think you have to listen to each other and make sure you strike the right balance. Inevitably when you design the chassis and the PU there are various tradeoffs. I think Honda is a very polite, correct and thorough partner.

“I think it’s very easy for European racing culture to not hear in these discussions what it should and should be doing. I believe we as a team, we are a new and growing team, we have big ambitions , I think as we begin this partnership, we hope to have started listening.

“I’ve obviously visited Sakura before this announcement, and I’m a huge believer in Honda’s incredible facilities, great enthusiasm and great engineers.”


Vandoorne to drive Aston Martin F1 car in Pirelli tyre test at Spa




Aston reserve driver Vandoorne will share driving duties with team principal Lance Stroll, while Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri will each drive a day for McLaren.

It will be the Belgian’s first time driving an active F1 car on track since December 2020 when he represented Mercedes in Abu Dhabi testing.

While the Spa test will focus on Pirelli’s no-carpet tyres, it will give Vandoorne a valuable opportunity to sample the 2023 car, helping him correlate with Aston Martin’s simulator work.

If either Stroll or Fernando Alonso were unwell at any point for the rest of the season, his life would also be made easier.

The 31-year-old shared the Aston substitute with defending Formula Two champion Felipe Drugovich, and the two took turns on call.

Dubovic drove the AMR23 for two days during the Bahrain test in February, when Stroll was not present, and he had the opportunity to test drive the AMR23. Since then, the Brazilian has continued to rack up more miles in private testing of the 2021 car.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

As well as his role at Aston, Vandoorne is one of McLaren’s backup drivers and his performance at Spa will also make it easier for him to step into the MCL60 should the need arise.

As well as giving him a general feel for downforce levels for 2023, the two cars share the Mercedes powerplant and thus have similar settings on their respective steering wheels.

Also read:

Vandoorne made his F1 debut for McLaren in Bahrain in 2016, replacing current Aston team-mate Alonso.

He then completed two full seasons in 2017 and 2018, the first with Honda power and the second with Renault. He finished 16th at the World Championships in both seasons, with a best finish of seventh.

He was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2018, but has since rebuilt his career in Formula E, winning the 2021-22 championship for Mercedes and serving as an F1 substitute.

He currently drives for the DS Penske Formula E team and is also a substitute for the Peugeot WEC team.

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McLaren “true contenders” for F1 best of the rest tag




McLaren has only scored one point after three rounds in 2023 as it struggles to find the car competitive.

But both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have seen plenty of upgrades in recent races, allowing the former to finish second in a row, while Piastri has finished in the top five in each of his past two races.

Despite being 136 points behind second-placed Mercedes in the constructors’ championship, Russell believes McLaren is a real threat for the remainder of the race behind leaders Red Bull.

“Obviously they’re a real contender for second fastest team,” Russell said of Woking.

“Oddly enough, Aston Martin was clearly second at the start of the year.

“And they don’t seem to be that competitive now. Ferrari haven’t made much progress. McLaren has made huge progress.

“So without McLaren we’d be very, very happy with the progress we’ve made. Leading the midfield, widening the gap and closing in on Red Bull.

“McLaren has just fully embraced it. But that makes you optimistic that bigger strides are possible.

“I believe in my team. I think it gives us the confidence and optimism to take this step towards Red Bull.

“We’re not too focused on McLaren, Aston or Ferrari. We’re focused on Red Bull. We’re trying to make that big step.”

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photography: Steve Etherington/ motorsport pictures

Russell fought his way back from 18th on the grid at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, jumping to sixth at the checkered flag after Mercedes strategists told him 11th was his favorite.

Russell was pleased with the final result, but felt it was “proof” of a “missed opportunity” for Hungary.

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“The strategy tells me that if we maximize everything, the P11 is the most realistic, the P7 is the most realistic,” Russell told Autosport.

“Sixth place without a safety car, without a VSC, it’s a really great result.

“But it also proved that this weekend could be a missed opportunity. I believe I could have gone there with Lewis yesterday, it’s one of my favorite circuits and the car always does well here.

“When you have two cars out there, fighting for second gives you more options, and Lewis is also very strong. If things turned out a little differently, he would also be P2.

“So as a missed opportunity we will learn from it. But the positive side is we are leading Aston and Ferrari.”

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Top speed, car sizes, race weekends and more compared




Formula 1 has relied on junior classes to develop the next generation of drivers, and its teams are eager to snag their brightest talent.

The ‘old’ Formula 2 car was a ruleset rather than its own separate entity, sometimes sharing the grid with F1, and later rule changes made the two cars separate championships.

The second class was renamed the F3000 in 1985 as the series switched to a naturally aspirated engine formula and extended the life of the earlier Cosworth DFV lineage. Throughout the life of the F3000, different engine and chassis suppliers came and went, with companies including Reynard, Lola, Ralt and March among them, all producing cars before the championship became a single specification.

When the F3000 championship began to fade due to declining team interest and declining track quality, the second level of racing was reborn in 2005. Bernie Ecclestone tried to bring the junior championship to F1’s bottom line and, along with Flavio Briatore and Bruno Michel, helped build the GP2 series.

GP2 became the FIA ​​Formula Two Championship in 2017, but many key hallmarks of GP2’s early series have stood the test of time. The GP3 series, a third-tier category designed to compete with the myriad Formula 3 championships around it, was added to the F1 Act in 2010 and became FIA ​​Formula 3 in 2019.

There are major differences in the way F2 is run compared to F1, there are subtle changes in form and there are big differences in the overall performance of the cars. The following are the key areas of comparison between F1 and F2.

F1 vs. F2 – key differences


Formula 1

Formula Two

top speed

220+ mph

208 mph

Minimum weight including driver

798 kg

788 kg




engine size

1.6 liter V6

3.4 liter V6

Approximate Power

1,000 horsepower

620 hp

car size

5.63m x 2m x 0.95m

5.22m x 1.9m x 1.09m

tire size

18 inches

18 inches

game every weekend

One (two for sprint weekends)

Two (one sprint, one feature)

game length

305 km/190 miles

Sprint – 120 km/74.5 miles

Features – 170 km/105.6 miles






twenty two

2023 Pole Times – Red Bull Ring

1 point 04.391

1 meter 14,643

2023 Pole Times – Monaco

1 meter 11.365

1 meter 21.053

2023 Pole Times – Silverstone

1 meter 26.720

1 meter 39,832

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Photography: Simon Galloway/ motorsport pictures

What is the difference between F1 and F2 racing?

In F1, each team designs its own chassis according to a set of well-defined technical regulations laid down by the FIA. For the 2022 ruleset, the FIA ​​has updated the wording of the rules to better define the bounding box within which bodies can be developed and build a system more in line with the proliferation of available CAD products.

It features a range of safety systems such as a roll cage, halo and anti-intrusion panels mounted around the monocoque. There are also anti-collision structures on the side, front and rear of the car to minimize the impact on the driver in the car.

F2 is a single-spec series with all teams using the Dallara F2 2018 model. The car and driver must weigh a minimum of 788kg and feature F1 standard safety features such as the aforementioned crash structures and halos. Use only parts supplied by Dallara, Hewland or sold by F2 promoters.

F2 cars use floor venturi tunnels, which F1 adopts in 2022, 40 years after banning ground-effect aerodynamics. These designs aren’t as extreme as those in F1, but they work on the same principle, and the car is also enhanced with front and rear wings to create downforce. Like F1, F2 cars are fitted with a Drag Reduction System (DRS), which operates on the same parameters as its parent series.

While F1 cars typically reach speeds in excess of 220 mph during a race, with DRS switched on, an F2 car could theoretically hit 208 mph at full low downforce.

What is the difference between F1 and F2 tires?

Pirelli supplies all championships on the official F1 ladder, and F2 and F3 also use the Italian company’s rubber.

F2 started using 18-inch tires in 2020, two years before entering F1. F2 tires are slightly narrower than F1 tires and generally have less grip because of the naturally lower speeds of the junior series cars.

There are four dry-weather tire compounds for the F2: hard, medium, soft and supersoft – with the first three using the same white, yellow and red color coding as the F1. Extra soft textures are indicated by purple text on the side walls. Each car is supplied with five sets of dry weather tires per wheel, consisting of two of the prescribed compounds, with a set of “premium” tires to be returned after practice. Three sets of wet tires are also available – the F2 has no intermediate compound.

Tire blankets are banned in F2, meaning drivers must warm up their tires naturally. This often creates a larger offset during the pit stops, with drivers leaving the pits vulnerable to those who have already completed laps in the new group.

The “primary” and “option” compounds (harder tires are the main tires and softer tires are the options) must be used during featured races, and pit stops are required to replace them. Tire parking is allowed during a sprint, but not mandatory. Since only two dry compounds are used each weekend, Pirelli and F2 decide which tire to use before the weekend. There may be a single step in the compound (for example, medium and soft), or there may be a larger step for greater excursions (for example, medium and extra soft).

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

Photography: Sutton Images

What is the difference between F1 and F2 powertrains?

F1 has used a turbo-hybrid system since 2014, with a turbocharger and a motor-generator set on the rear axle to form a hybrid package. The internal combustion engine is a 1.6-liter V6. By 2022, F1 engines run on E10 fuel, where 10% of the fuel composition consists of combustibles of biosourced origin.

The MGU-K in an F1 car can produce up to 160bhp for a total power output of around 1000bhp. Figures for F1’s current four powertrain manufacturers (Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Red Bull Powertrain) vary but are all believed to have efficiencies in excess of 50%.

F2’s single-spec powertrain is produced by French manufacturer Mecachrome, which briefly participated in F1 in 1998 and 1999, and took over Renault’s engine program. The Mecachrome unit was a 3.4-litre V6 engine, virtually the same one used in the F3, but with a modified turbocharger from Van der Lee. It produces around 620bhp and is driven by a six-speed Hewland gearbox.

To ensure fairness in powertrain supply, Mecachrome units are randomly assigned to teams, as there may be minor differences in overall power output.

F2 is currently being used as a test bed to assist F1 in developing more sustainable fuel, using Aramco-produced fuel with 55% of its content from sustainable bio-sources, with the aim of increasing this figure to 100% by 2026/27. The Saudi oil brand replaced longtime supplier Elf as the sole producer of the F2 fuel.

How much does F1 cost compared to F2?

In recent years, Formula 1 has been constrained by a cost cap of about $135 million through 2023, with some minor adjustments for inflation and other ancillary costs. The cost cap covers most development and operating costs, but excludes driver salaries, salaries of the team’s three highest-paid employees, travel costs and marketing expenses. As Red Bull found out in 2022, violating this cap carries a range of penalties depending on the extent of the overrun.

The bulk of this budget comes from the FIA’s prize money, investment and sponsorship mix. Some teams, such as Red Bull and Mercedes, are self-sufficient in terms of bonuses and sponsors and do not require direct input from their ownership structures.

F2 teams have much smaller budgets, and with the series’ fairly limited reach, teams will rarely start the season with a full sponsor portfolio ready to fund every race. As such, drivers should pay for their rides through their own sponsors or a driver academy.

Depending on the team, the budget of an F2 driver can vary from 2 million to 3 million euros, and can even exceed this budget to get a seat in a better team. To keep costs down, F2 limited the number of employees working on each car on race weekends and designed the cars to be relatively cheap. A team can buy a complete F2 car, without the engine, for around 500,000 euros.

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ motorsport pictures

How do drivers get from F2 to F1?

To compete in F2, drivers must hold an A or B international FIA license. They cannot conduct private tests on F2 machines, only the group tests offered by the series. There are also restrictions on the single-seater cars that drivers can test in private, and if a driver is double-duty in another category, they must commit to racing in F2 in the event of any conflict.

Depending on a driver’s final standing at the end of the F2 season, they may receive Superlicense points to help qualify for F1. To obtain a super license to compete in F1, a driver needs to earn 40 points.

The distribution of Super License points is:

end of season position

SL points

first place


second place


third place


fourth place


the fifth place


sixth place


Number 7


number 8




No. 10


These can be applied cumulatively over the course of three seasons.

F1 VS F2 weekend format

F1 has been running in the same basic format for years, with FP1 and FP2 taking place on Fridays, each one hour long. FP3 races are also one hour long and take place on the Saturday before the three-stage qualifying format in place since 2006. F1 races must be at least 305 kilometers in length (excluding Monaco) and must not exceed two hours in duration, with a three-hour window if any red flags are raised.

However, sprint weekends are different and that changes for 2023. The only practice session kicked off with Friday’s race, followed by qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Sprint qualifying and the race are both held on Saturdays, with 2023 seeing six sprint weekends for added variety.

F2 has a practice session lasting 45 minutes on Friday, with a half-hour qualifying session later in the day. It’s effectively a time trial and drivers just need to maintain the fastest lap at the end of the race to secure pole for Sunday’s race.

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Photography: Red Bull Content Pool

The sprint race takes place on Saturday, using the same grid as qualifying, but with the top ten swapped. The number of laps “equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 120 km (100 km in Monaco)”, according to the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system, the score is finally dropped to eighth place, and the fastest lap points are awarded to the top 10 competitors.

The F2 weekend’s featured race “should be equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 170km (140km in Monaco, 160km in Budapest)”. It features mandatory pit stops where drivers must use both primary and optional compounds during the race. If a driver pits before completing the sixth lap, the mandatory stop does not count. This information is also not recorded if a driver stops under the Virtual Safety Car unless they are already in the pits when the VSC is triggered.

F2 attempted three weekend races in 2021, but the practice was generally unpopular and canceled for 2022 due to gaps left on the calendar. Prior to this, the main race was held on Saturday, and the starting position of the sprint race was determined by the results and the reversal of the top eight.

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