Max Verstappen, Charles LeClerc, Lewis Hamilton: they’re all pretty good drivers. But none of them can get past this car: the Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition.
The F1 Edition is essentially a roadgoing version of the Vantage that has served as the Official Safety Safety Car of Formula 1 since 2021. Well, it shares duties with the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, but that’s okay – the two share a lot, including the German maker’s biturbo V8 engine.
It would be naïve to think Aston had cooked up this Vantage especially for F1 at short notice; there was obviously a more focused version in development all along, given it’s the maker’s smallest and sportiest coupe.
But an official F1 badge (it wears plenty of them, don’t worry) is as good as any and this is an impressively well-rounded machine.
The concept was to create a version of the Vantage that could achieve the best possible lap times, but without a massive mechanical overhaul and on road tyres. It was never going to be an impractical track-only racer.
So the F1 Edition gets a little extra power, but only a little: up 18kW to 393kW. The eight-speed transmission also has a modified torque cut during shifts to hustle the ratio-changes along; but again, it’s an incremental change.
The real work has been in aerodynamics and suspension. Given the former offers 200kg downforce at top speed on track, it’s probably the latter the potential Vantage F1 Edition driver is more interested in. Unless they go by the name Bernd Maylander.
Underbody modifications have strengthened the front, which in turn improves steering feel – just without major modification to the steering system per se. The dampers have been tweaked to tighten up vertical body control at high compression – which helps at high speed but doesn’t impact the low-speed ride.
The rear is also stiffer overall, which improves traction but also sharpens the steering by assisting in cornering response. And the F1 Edition is the first Vantage to ride on 21-inch wheels, which fill the wheelarches nicely.
Despite the track application of this model, the overwhelming impression on Kiwi roads is of a sophisticated and beautifully balanced performance car.
As with the standard Vantage, the biturbo V8 remains quite refined and only really starts to howl in the upper reaches. No GT mode like you get in a DBS, though: with the Vantage, Sport is the least aggressive, then it’s up to Sport+ and Track.
There’s still a Track stability control mode, but once you’re through that you can indeed switch everything off. If you’re brave and on a circuit.
The F1 Edition is perfectly usable as an everyday car, yet when you want to be entertained on-road there’s sublime steering and a squat, communicative chassis waiting. It’s a better Vantage by any measure, in any driving environment, and it feels more together the faster you go.
Whether it’s the best Safety Car is another matter. Being a bit more road-focused means the Vantage is slower around the track than F1’s other pack leader, the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series (which truly is a circuit-optimised machine).
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen went so far as to call the Aston a “turtle” during the Australian Grand Prix earlier this year, because it wasn’t able to go at sufficient pace to keep the tyres on the F1 cars following warm during the Safety Car laps.
Well, what’s slow to an F1 driver is terrifyingly fast to the rest of us. As a road car this Vantage is pretty special, even for an extra $40k over the standard model: a sophisticated dynamic package and honours as the first-ever production car to wear an official F1 logo.
It’s also the only car you can have in the Aston Martin Racing Green (Verstappen loves it) used by the brand’s F1 cars. Although as you’ll see from our test vehicle… other colours are available.
ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE F1 EDITION
ENGINE: 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8
GEARBOX: Eight-speed automatic, RWD
0-100KM/H: 3.6 seconds
ECONOMY: 11.6l/100km (WLTP)