Opinion: F1 grid 'newcomer' Aston proves team histories are complicated
The new Aston Martin F1 team’s lineage can be traced back (roughly) through Racing Point, Force India, Spyker and Midland to Jordan in 1991
Name changes and new owners blur the lines when it comes to who's who on a Grand Prix grid
Question: how many grands prix has Aston Martin F1 started? Your four options are: 0, 5, 38 or 535. Any ideas? Well, here’s the thing: all four answers are correct. Sort of. Confused? Me too. Let me explain.
We’ll start with zero. Aston Martin is one of two ‘new’ teams on the 2021 grid, so this year’s opening race will be its first. Except the answer could also be five, because Aston Martin ran a works team in five races in 1959 and 1960 (it failed to qualify for a sixth).
Perhaps they don’t count, given that Aston team is entirely unrelated to the new one. The new Aston is a rebrand of Racing Point – so you could argue the answer is 38, the number of races the team contested in that form.
Mind you, Racing Point was founded in 2018 when Lawrence Stroll bought the assets of Force India when it went into administration. While F1 bosses ruled that Force India’s entry wasn’t transferable, Racing Point was essentially the same team running from the same Silverstone factory. And that team’s history goes back through short-lived identities as Spyker and Midland to the Jordan team that entered F1 in 1991. And that Jordan/Midland/Spyker/Force India/Racing Point/Aston Martin team has contested a total of 535 races.
So, all four are legitimate answers. Confusing, eh?
Many F1 teams have changed hands or rebranded multiple times, and their histories have become somewhat confusing. Does Alfa Romeo Racing’s history go through the Sauber squad that runs it, or the unrelated Alfa team that won the first two F1 championships?
Consider another 2021 ‘newcomer’: is Alpine F1 a new outfit or a continuation of Renault F1? That team, often referred to as Team Enstone, is an extreme example: since it was founded in 1981, it has been named Toleman, Benetton, Renault, Lotus F1 (and within that variously Lotus Racing, Team Lotus and Lotus F1 Team), Renault (again) and now Alpine.
At one level, this is all inconsequential. Except that F1 is a sport with a deep, rich history, but one being muddied by all these team changes. For example, the 2020 record books show that AlphaTauri won its first race in its first season. Except that the same team (which began life as Minardi) previously won a race when called Toro Rosso. So if Aston Martin takes a shock win this season, will the team celebrate like it’s their first, given Racing Point’s Sakhir Grand Prix victory last year?
I’m not sure. I’m not sure anyone’s sure. And does it matter? Again, not sure.
Still, the messed-up history does offer some amusing quirks. Here’s one: Mercedes-AMG F1 was created in 2010 when the manufacturer purchased the 2009 title-winning Brawn GP outfit. That team was born from the old Honda F1 team, which began life in 1999 as BAR. But it goes back further: BAR bought the F1 entry slot of Tyrrell Racing, which first competed in 1968 and won three drivers’ titles with Jackie Stewart.
And while BAR set up an entirely new team, for legal reasons it kept Tyrrell’s registration with Companies House. The company number, 00787446, is still used by Mercedes-AMG F1 – a fragment of rich heritage in a sport that doesn’t seem to know what to do with it.
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