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Background | Why Aston Martin F1 awaits a very eventful 2024

Background | Why Aston Martin F1 awaits a very eventful 2024

14-10-2023 18:52
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Ludo van Denderen

Fernando Alonso has often proved a guarantee of unrest. No one doubts the Spaniard's exceptional qualities, but with his behaviour considered troublesome and sometimes awkward statements ('GP2 engine!'), he has regularly been at the centre of controversy during his long career. At Aston Martin, there is none of that. On the contrary, everything and everyone around Alonso is causing the uproar this time. This is all going to lead to a stirring 2024 at Aston Martin.

For the outside world, the whole discussion surrounding the composition of the driver duo after (or perhaps even during) 2024 is undoubtedly the most salient. How long Alonso's contract will continue is subject to speculation, but it is said to be a commitment until the end of '24. The Spaniard has already hinted at an extension, but he will also be over 43 years old by then. No one will be surprised if Alonso hangs up his F1 racing gloves - for the second time. In any case, talks about the future await Aston Martin and the two-time world champion, which will no doubt lead to much publicity.

The future of Lance Stroll?

Lance Stroll already knows the spotlight is on him, although the Canadian normally does not have to worry about his contract at all. Father Lawrence is one of the owners of Aston Martin F1 and everyone assumes that Stroll Junior will be allowed to stay put as long as Senior is in charge. Although it has also not gone over anyone's head that Lance has been performing increasingly poorly in recent months and making a rather surly impression (to say the least). The FIA Compliance Officer already took him to task on Friday for an incident in Qatar.

Whereas other F1 teams always send out a neat press release and some posts on social media about their drivers' contract extensions, that never happens with Stroll. Soon, when the winter break is over, the Canadian will just be there. Without further notice. Because yes, right now everyone assumes Stroll will also be behind the wheel of the Aston Martin in '24.

Whether it will be the same in 2025? It just might not be. Although Aston Martin strongly denies it, a move to the World Endurance Championship (WEC) would make perfect sense. Indeed, as of '25, the British marque is active in endurance racing with a hypercar, and that would be a nice backdoor for Stroll.

What about a takeover of Aston Martin's F1 programme?

As already indicated, as long as father Lawrence is in charge at Aston Martin F1, Lance need not worry about whether he will be allowed to compete in Formula 1 at all. Only it is highly uncertain whether Lawrence Stroll will still be in charge after August 2024. This is because Zhejiang Geely Holding Group - currently one of the shareholders in Aston Martin's F1 team - is rumoured to want a majority of the shares.

Despite rumours from China that Geely wants to take full ownership of AMR GP (as the holding company is officially called) as soon as possible, that is contractually not possible in principle right now. When Force India was acquired in August 2018 by a consortium led by Lawrence Strulovitch (as Stroll is really called according to his passport), it was agreed that none of the participating party could have more than 25 per cent of the shares for the first five years. That agreement expires from August 2024. Indeed, if one of the shareholders manages to secure at least 29.9 per cent of the shares from then on, that party will be obliged to make an offer to the others for their shares. The price to be paid per share is equal to the highest price deposited for an AMR GP share in the previous 12 months.

So this way, one of the current shareholders could take full control of Aston Martin F1 in 2024. If stories from China are to be true, Geely plan to go after that tiny five per cent stake in order to make the takeover bid. The big question is what Stroll will do: does he want to sell or will he, on the contrary, try to boost his share portfolio, making a (in his eyes then perhaps hostile) takeover impossible?

Either way: a very interesting year awaits Aston Martin in several areas.