Aston Martin owner Stroll hints at Hamilton approach

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An Aston Martin logo is pictured at the company's factory in Saint Athan, Wales, Britain, Dec 6, 2019.

Canadian fashion billionaire Lawrence Stroll is leading Aston Martin's return to Formula 1 after a 61-year absence-a comeback he calls the "biggest thing to happen to the sport in decades".

And he's tempted to offer seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton a chance to come along for the ride.

Stroll, who last year paid $250 million for a 17 percent stake in the team formerly known as Racing Point, has retained quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel as lead driver for the upcoming season, which opens on March 28 in Bahrain.

But with Hamilton's latest deal with Mercedes due to expire and the team exploring future options, luring Hamilton to the Aston Martin fold presents an intriguing possibility.

"It is definitely tempting," Stroll said in a weekend interview with the PA news agency. "Lewis in any car is great, and I am sure everyone would say yes because he is a seven-time world champion. But right now, I am extremely focused on getting started this year."

A budget cap has been introduced for the first time in F1 history, aimed at bringing the field closer. Teams can spend no more than $145 million this year, $140 million in 2022 and $135 million in 2023. Mercedes, winner of the past seven drivers' and constructors' championships, Ferrari and Red Bull have all been operating at costs in excess of $350 million annually.

"From a competitive point of view, the budget cap changes the sport dramatically," said Stroll. "The big three teams were significantly outspending everyone and probably had 400-500 more staff. All of that has now gone.

"Our team has punched above its weight with significantly less resources, and I sincerely believe with the same amount of people and the same budget, there is no reason why world championships are not very much on the cards. It is very realistic to think that."

Stroll's acquisition of Force India in 2018 saved the British-based team from going under, but last year he faced criticism for retaining his son Lance as lead driver ahead of Vettel's arrival. Sergio Perez was dumped after seven years with the team.

Lance Stroll has been targeted by detractors on social media who say the 22-year-old has a ride only because of his father's money.

"There are a lot of jealous people in the world and jealous people, who wish they were there in Lance's position, say silly things," said the elder Stroll.

"I don't pay much attention to it, and neither does Lance. Do I think my son is talented? I think he is immensely talented. I have no doubt he has demonstrated that he has world championship blood in him.

"Everything is equal when you get to the ring, and he showed that by putting it on pole in the rain in Turkey last year when the playing field was level. There are not many people who can do that."

Vettel, who won his four championships for Red Bull, endured a miserable end to his six campaigns with Ferrari, finishing 13th in the 2020 standings.

"It is not a secret that last year I wasn't at my happiest," the 33-year-old German said at Aston Martin's launch last week.

"I know it wasn't to my standards, that I was below myself, but I am very much at peace with it. I think I have another world championship in me. I am not too old and I still have a long time in me."

Vettel, whose career tally of 53 Grand Prix wins has been surpassed only by Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, is upbeat about Aston Martin's prospects.

"Things are different here than at Ferrari because the team is growing," he said. "It is not about the fancy looks and the fancy chairs in the office, but the work done behind the scenes. And from what I have seen, the people are very talented."

Stroll agreed, adding: "This team has done many things, but one thing it hasn't done is win a world championship, and what Seb brings is that mindset, the methodology, the work ethic, and the planning around being a world champion. That is invaluable.

"He is unbelievably motivated to be a part of Aston Martin returning to Formula 1. You don't become a four-time world champion and then forget how to drive. There were factors on his mind last year, but I don't have one hesitation that he will be as quick as ever."

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