It’s been an eventful few years for Aston Martin. In July 2013, the company entered into a technical partnership with Mercedes’s tuning arm AMG for engineering assistance and powertrain manufacturing. Then at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, the company unveiled its upcoming DBX crossover alongside its track-only Vulcan supercar. And while both are going into production, the quintessentially British sports car builder has just secured a $300 million in capital funding to build a new plant for the crossover, most likely in Alabama. On the heels of last month’s debut of the refreshed-for-2016 DB9 GT, the company could be on the verge of another big announcement: Sources say it’s close to partnering with Red Bull Racing to compete in Formula 1, and collaborating with them to design and build a street legal follow-up to the Vulcan.
For those whose familiarity with Red Bull ends with its silver and blue cans, the energy drink juggernaut also owns one of the most active racing teams in the world. With its headquarters in Milton Keynes, England (near Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG’s British offices), the company was established in 2004, after the company bought the floundering Jaguar Racing team from Ford. Since then, the team has gone on to win four consecutive Constructors’ Championship titles between 2010 and 2013, with help from driver Sebastian Vettel.
But times have been tough for the team since Vettel left for Ferrari in 2014. Its current contract with partner Nissan-Renault (its cars are branded as Infinitis), is set to expire in 2016, and with its cars underperforming (and many say underpowered), it’s unlikely Red Bull will renew the partnership.
When the racing team began using Renault engines in 2007, its liaison at the company was Andy Palmer, who left Nissan-Renault last year to become Aston Martin’s CEO. With the Palmer connection at Aston, and that company’s powertrain partnership with Mercedes (which is dominating Formula 1 this season), Red Bull Racing’s potential British-German F1 partnership could return the team to the top of the podium in relatively short order.
While a new Formula 1 partnership should be nothing new for Red Bull Racing (it worked with Ferrari before going with Nissan-Renault), a road car would be entirely new territory. As far as supercars go, the Vulcan is a tough act to follow – with its 7.0 liter V12 producing 800 horsepower, and a zero-to-60 time of under three seconds. But it isn’t street legal, and its $2.3 million price tag, and ultra-limited 24 car production run keep will keep them firmly in the hands of collectors and well-heeled racers.
The potential Aston-Red Bull car could be more attainable, but probably only just. Details are scarce at this point, but like the Vulcan, it’s believed that the Ferrari FXX K and McLaren P1 GTR are the car’s targets. Unlike these three, the Red Bull-Aston would likely benefit from an AMG powertrain and be street legal.
But there are still a lot of ifs at this early stage, and by the time the car is ready, Ferrari and McLaren could be on to better and faster things. And there’s nothing set in stone yet either – as Autoblog points out, both parties are still in talks (Mercedes is involved too), and weighing their options independently of one another. If either company pulls out, it’s likely that they will continue to develop cars on their own.
Despite Red Bull’s worldwide recognition as an energy drink, its racing arm is one of the top manufacturers in the world, and developing a road car for it is no different from when McLaren developed the F1 over two decades ago. A Red Bull-Aston Martin Formula 1 racing partnership? That’s a thrilling possibility. A jointly-developed road-going hypercar with AMG power? So long as it doesn’t have a giant Red Bull can on the roof, we’re all for it.
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