Former Aston Martin CEO on Valkyrie: "Verstappen was also involved"

31-05-2021 17:00 | Updated: 31-05-2021 18:46
Former Aston Martin CEO on Valkyrie: Verstappen was also involved

Andy Palmer was the CEO of Aston Martin for six years, and during his time the British car brand, Palmer sponsored Red Bull Racing and together they were responsible for building the ultimate hypercar Valkyrie. In conversation with Palmer talks about how the partnership with the Austrian F1 team worked out.

Before Palmer moved to Aston Martin, he spent 23 years working for Nissan. "At Nissan, I was the chairman of Infiniti, and Infiniti had a long standing relationship with Red Bull. When I left Nissan, they decided to terminate its relationship with Red Bull and that created the obvious opportunity to bring the relationship to Aston but not simply as a sticker on the car," Palmer says.

Verstappen and the Valkyrie

It was about more than just a partnership for the stage. "I needed a halo vehicle for Aston and Adrian Newey wanted to do a road car. Knowing this, there was an opportunity. There was a meeting between four people in a pub with sausage and mash and beers. It was Adrian Newey, Christian Horner, Simon Spoule and myself. That’s where the idea of Valkyrie was born. Valkyrie being legitimised by bringing Red Bull experience and therefore Red Bull holding the brand of Aston Martin. Yes it was a sponsorship of Red Bull, a title sponsorship eventually, but it was more to do with this genuine Valkyrie product where Newey could bring all of his knowledge of F1 racing, and with my knowledge and other people's knowledge in the company, particularly David King, that we could bring those together and make the last naturally-aspirated, the greatest petrol engine car ever basically. “

From Red Bull, however, it wasn't just Newey who was heavily involved with the Valkyrie; Max Verstappen also played a role. "Max was involved. It is important that they drove the original vehicles and that basically the settings were done according to them. Yes, the F1 pilots were involved, along with a few other professional drivers. A lot of work was done on the Red Bull simulator. So it has a proper F1 pedigree, it behaves amazingly at the test tracks but it also needs to perform on the road because it is a road car.”

Aston Martin engine for Red Bull?

Aston Martin was the title sponsor of Horner and Helmut Marko's team for many years, but wasn't the company keen to expand its partnership with Red Bull by also supplying engines? "There was a period of time where we seriously looked at moving into engine manufacturing”, Palmer reveals. “We were working with an engine manufacturer, it was at the point where Renault were on the way out and Honda not yet on the way in.”

He continued, "It looked like Red Bull had no solution so we campaigned with the FIA to make sure future engines could be done at a reasonably low budget. So cost caps and the configuration of the engine. In the context where the hybridisation was less complicated we felt we could come up with a solution but ultimately that wasn’t where it went. So the kinetic energy recovery system continues and that’s perhaps the trickiest part of the F1 engine. So Honda came along and had a much more robust solution than we would if we were going through a development cycle so for a while it was a serious consideration," said Palmer.

New F1 engines in 2025

New engine regulations appear to be coming to Formula 1 in 2025. Where does Palmer hope they will go? "Where I hope F1 engines go, I hope they embrace the whole net-zero option. F1 is supposed to be cutting edge. F1 can’t become a dinosaur. You could argue about FE, which is good but sometimes it feels a little bit soleless. F1 has to remain relevant. I hope it does this by pushing the boundary of synthetic fuel. In other words they can reach net-zero, not by simply going to EV, but by moving to synthetic fuel. I hope that F1 will become the marketing tool of that alternative fuel.”

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