Aston Martin’s checkered Grand Prix history

TT2-L Gallop and TT1-R Zborowski before French GP Strasbourg scaled
TT2-L Gallop and TT1-R Zborowski before French GP Strasbourg scaled ©
Dec. 09. 2020
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London, United Kingdom - In 2021 Aston Martin will return to Formula 1 as a manufacturer for the first time in more than 60 years.

Aston Martin spent the past four years as a title sponsor to Red Bull Racing, in a somewhat confusing arrangement where both Infiniti and Renault branding also appeared on the car. Now Aston Martin chairman Lawrence Stroll is to rename his Racing Point Formula 1 team as Aston Martin Racing for next season.

Racing Point just secured its first win at the Sakhir Grand Prix thanks to the sterling efforts of Sergio Perez, who the team has decided to ditch in favour of three-time champion Sebastian Vettel. Alongside him will be Canadian Lance Stroll, the boss’s son.

Founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford Aston Martin’s cars soon found success on Britain’s hillclimb courses, but Martin had bigger plans.

In the early 1920s Martin met the American-Polish Count Louis Zborowski who was an aristocrat, talented automobilist and, most importantly, filthy rich. Zborowski provided £10,000 (around $600,00 in today’s money) so that Aston Martin could build two cars for the 1992 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. Chassis numbers TT1 and TT2 (see image above) were powered by a 1486 cc single-cam 16-valve engine that produced 56 hp at 4,200 rpm and would propel the 1650-lb machines to 85 mph.

Unfortunately the cars were not ready in time for the TT races in June of 1922 and were entered in the two-liter French Grand Prix at Strasbourg in July. Aston Martin’s official Grand Prix debut did not go well. Both cars retired with engine problems.

Martin and Zborowski were undeterred and more positive results did follow including a second place at the 1922 and 1923 Grands Prix de Penya Rhin at Villafranca, and third place at the 1923 Grand Prix de Boulogne. Zbrowski’s tragic death behind the wheel of Mercedes at Monza in 1924 also led to the demise of Aston’s Grand Prix ambitions for the next two decades.

Aston Martin’s own Grand Prix story continued in 1955 when new owner David Brown decided to take on the World Sportscar Championship and the new Formula 1 World Championship. The success of the Le Mans-winning DBR1 is well-documented but the DBR4 single-seater may actually be best forgotten. Aston Martin quietly left Grand Prix racing in 1960 but is clearly hoping for a more impressive re-entry to the sport in 2021 with chairman Lawrence Stroll a great believer in the brand-building power of the sport.

Aston Martin’s 2021 Formula 1 cars will be powered by Mercedes-Benz, which should see them close to the front of the grid, but an Aston Martin safety car will also debut in 2021 so the British brand is almost guarantied to lead the pack at some stage.