Aston Martin’s recently established Grand Prix team might only be sixth in the current championship standings, but the first road car to emerge from Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll’s ownership has gone straight into pole position.
The new Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition is like a Porsche GT3 with superior tailoring; a perfect balance of Debrett’s manners and MMA aggression, and with looks that will make the heart flutter. It’s also the first core model to benefit from recently appointed CEO Tobias Moers’ input. Stylistically, it’s one of the best things chief creative officer Marek Reichman has done. Dynamically, Lotus refugee Matt Becker and colleagues have found the magic engineering formula, giving the car more tactility and character as well as speed. It’s tighter, faster, but not harder.
The most track-focused Vantage to date, it’s based on the official F1 Safety Car – Aston and its technical partner Mercedes-Benz sharing the pace-car honours this season after a 25-year Merc monopoly.
This is the first car on sale to have the F1 logo stuck on it if that lights your fire.
The new model boasts engine, chassis and aerodynamic upgrades over the standard Vantage. The only real difference between this and the Safety Car is the lack of flashing lights on the roof, and Q can probably arrange that as an option. It’s also available in roadster form, as well as a coupe.
We experienced the car on road and track, taking it along Cotswolds A-roads and Silverstone’s Stowe Circuit, which Aston lease to develop their machinery.
Let’s start with the visual extras. The Vantage was already attractive and sporty, but now it’s crashed through a cosmetics aisle and the results are glorious. Behold the gaping Zagato-style vaned grille, full-width front splitter, front dive planes and a rear wing seldom seen on an Aston with a number plate. The aero kit not only looks the part, but it also delivers 200kg of extra downforce over the normal car at top speed.
The aero kit in Vantage F1 delivers 200kg of extra downforce over the normal car at top speed.
The colour has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. The satin green Aston Martin Racing paintwork (which mimics that of the Aston Martin Cognizant F1 team car and the Safety Car) shifts to hues of grey and purple as the light bends around its curves. Down the middle is a matte dark grey stripe, emphasising its competition credentials and contrasting with the gloss black aero accoutrements. Other body colours – black or white, satin or gloss – are available, and you can delete the stripe.
Though it lacks the full-throated pomp of V12 Astons, the Mercedes AMG-derived four-litre twin-turbo V8 has been amped up to 528bhp, a 25bhp increase. The result is more urgent yet more tractable, helped by the software-tweaks to the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, which feels more precise. The torque management provides better balance and finer control, especially under heavy braking or at the limits of traction. Our car carried carbon-ceramic brakes, a £7,345 extra.
Suspension and chassis modifications have increased front structural and lateral stiffness to aid turn-in and traction and to calm the rear end, and the reworked damping has improved vertical body control through high-speed compressions and crests. We’d love nothing more than to take the F1 Edition to the Nürburgring and experience the full fruits of these labours (apparently, it’s 15 seconds quicker around the “Ring” than the standard car).
The wheels have swollen to 21”, with P Zero tyres developed specifically for F1 Edition by Pirelli which, much like the other changes to this Vantage, provide greater feedback to the driver.
We’d love to take the F1 Edition to the Nürburgring and experience the full fruits of these labours.
Top speed is 195mph and 0-60 takes just 3.5 seconds in the coupe. The roadster will be a smidge slower but, hey, it’s all relative. This is a phenomenally quick car, but its pace is usable, predictable and unintimidating. It’s easy to drive on the limit and gives the driver considerable confidence.
When the F1 Edition was announced, our first reaction was cynicism. Presumably, this would be a badging job, designed to boost sales of a car that’s been around for three years. This is much more than that. This is the best drivers’ car Aston Martin have produced for the road in its 108-year history – at least until the Adrian Newey-devised Valkyrie starts reaching its 150 lucky customers. And that’s £2.5 million. At £142,000, the car you see here is a bargain.
Words: Adam Hay-Nicholls