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[NEWS] F1 culture to inform Aston Martin road cars, says firm's tech boss

F1 culture to inform Aston Martin road cars, says firm's tech boss

Aston Martin Valhalla front quarter static
Mid-engined project is "very exciting", according to Fedeli

Chief technology officer Roberto Fedeli discusses Gaydon's fast-changing approach to road car development

Roberto Fedeli joined Aston Martin as chief technology officer a year ago.

The Italian enjoyed a 26-year career at Ferrari, which culminated in him leading development of the LaFerrari hypercar, then held roles at BMW and FCA. He came to Aston Martin to be reunited with Amedeo Felisa, who was joining as CEO – the same role he had held at Ferrari in Fedeli’s time there.

The first car developed under him at Aston Martin, where he oversees a team of around 800 engineers as chief technology officer, was the new DB12

What was your brief from chairman Lawrence Stroll when you arrived at Aston Martin a year ago? And how have you found your initial experience?

"I was briefed by Lawrence to change the products according to the new DNA of the brand. This so-called intensity-driven new definition of the brand had to be defined better in terms of the technology and the specification of the parts in the vehicle. 

"The team was created a year ago, with a good mix of young talent. Aston Martin has a lot of young talent, and I've promoted more responsibility to them, listening to them and giving them opportunities to give freshness to our development, processes and products. Together with guys with luxury experience already, we’re building an interesting team with young talent and experience. 

"My target for this year is around the engagement, interest and commitment of this team to do their best, to talk with each other, to think about the products with no politics or time-wasting, just jumping each day to get better.

"It’s the culture of the F1 team: each day you work to gain a tenth on the competition. We’ve also started looking around us, considering ourselves not just an island but comparing to our competitors with the target to be the best.

"We have a lot of products coming. Everything we learn in the products, the methodology, processes and working together will be seen on different products coming."

How important is developing future talent to you?

"My target is to promote young talent, pure Aston Martin people who are honed here. I hope they can lead the product development in five to seven years. Aston Martin had different leadership before; next time there's a new technical director, they can come from Aston Martin and grow here. 

"The second target is to build a strong and capable team of technicians to secure the future of Aston Martin."

What attracted you to Aston Martin?

"I don’t think there is another project so exciting in the world. This brand is going to turn into a completely different direction but respect the past. We need the right products and profitability, and we have to deliver what we promise. That’s the other target from Lawrence Stroll.

"If we do that, the company can turn completely. Do that and we get a higher value of stocks and we start developing the business as we want. 

"The real challenge and reason why I accepted Lawrence Stroll’s proposal was that I’d like to give my contribution to create value, to help the company increase in value.

"For a sporty luxury brand, value is very close to the products. With the right products, you create value. You get more money from making and selling products and keeping customers happy to make them buy again."

Why have you done your own software development in house, starting with the DB12?

"We’re forced to do that: if you don’t, there could be a lot of the market you can’t manage. You're then led by someone else, managed by someone else. All manufacturers are doing this. We’re one of the last. But we have to do it. 

"This could be considered one of the biggest challenges we have. The number of people working on software in the UK isn't huge, and we’re struggling to find people. We’re working with universities and start-ups, and we have an agreement with them to get the best talent we can find. 

"It’s a long journey. We’ve hired 50% of the people we hoped to have hired by now. We need at least 100-150 people and are struggling to find good, young people in the UK. Everybody is looking for them [software engineers], as software is important for all businesses."

How will your relationship with Mercedes-Benz evolve?

"Mercedes is still a [substantial] shareholder and an important technical partner for us. This kind of partnership isn't going to be less than in the past. We’re developing personalisation of the engine, with the base engine and technology coming from Mercedes. 

"Looking for the next challenge with ICE, Euro 7 [emissions regulations], without Mercedes we could be in trouble.

"At the same time, Mercedes isn't just an engine for us, it's [also] the base electrical architecture. We did integration of new components into the base Mercedes architecture [for the DB12]. This collaboration will remain in the future."

How exciting is the mid-engined project at Aston Martin?

"Very exciting. My last experience in Italy was LaFerrari. I have the experience to do that. The DB12 is the beginning; it’s so important. The product is completely different, not just the components but [also] the DNA and the positioning of the brand to the past. We will consolidate this DNA and start to think of new products accordingly."

How do you ensure consistency between future Aston Martin models?

"Everything in the company needs to be consistent: the quality of the toilets, the food in the canteen, the people, the developers, the people selling [the cars]. When you do the next one [car], it has to be consistent – different but consistent.

"The past is the past, but our chairman has a clear direction and results he wants to see from the company. It’s clear: we’re moving in a clear direction. Not one day goes by when we’re on a different direction to the target we have to get."

How closely do you work with the Aston Martin Formula 1 team?

"We’re using lots of experiences and skills from F1. The majority of our collaborations are in aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics on the simulator, using their F1 sim. Also on energy management. They have very strong experiences for EVs and on carbonfibre. 

"Plus, Fernando Alonso is one of very few F1 drivers who has an interest into the capability [of the road cars] as well."

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