MPH: Mercedes F1 engine guru Andy Cowell will be perfect Aston Martin boss


He's known as the brilliant engineer who masterminded Mercedes' dominant F1 years. But, writes Mark Hughes, Andy Cowell is also an inspirational leader, ideally suited for the tricky job of leading the Aston Martin team

Andy Cowell

Andy Cowell led the team that devised Mercedes' hybrid power unit


The Aston Martin team’s new group CEO, Andy Cowell, is already one of F1 history’s great engineers. His was the brain behind three landmark engines. The 1999 Cosworth CR-1 which moved F1 technology to a new level in its combination of lightness, integration of systems and possible engine speed. The 2001 BMW P81 incorporated the combustion lessons of the Cosworth and combined it with a new level of mechanical tolerances to achieve an initial enormous power advantage over the competition. In its early 2001 form in the back of the Williams it was believed to be delivering around 40bhp more than anyone else. The 2014 Mercedes PU106 hybrid was truly dominant – and the foundation for many years of dominance. The depth of thought and research which went into its configuration was clearly beyond the reach of the competition. It was so superior it was said Mercedes even gave Ferrari some helpful hints about where to look to begin closing the deficit.

But he’s not been recruited to Aston Martin as an engineer. His worth as the boss was very clear during his time at Mercedes HPP, which he joined in 2004 and was MD from 2012 until his departure in 2020.

Johnny Herbert in 1999 Stewart Ford F1 car

1999 Cosworth-powered Stewart

Juan Pablo Montoya in 2001 Williams F1 car

2001 Williams had BMW power advantage

He was first recruited to Mercedes at the recommendation of Martin Whitmarsh, who was COO of Mercedes’ then partner McLaren. Whitmarsh has again been instrumental in bringing Cowell into the fold – this time to Aston as his own replacement.

During Whitmarsh’s time there as Aston CEO he negotiated and landed the Honda partnership which begins in ’26 and has overseen the creation of the Aston engineering ‘campus’ which will be a key part of its future independence and capability. They are the sort of big projects which are Whitmarsh’s area of expertise.

But now it comes to the running of them, exploiting that partnership and the big facilities to the maximum, getting into the real nitty-gritty of operations  – that’s much more Andy Cowell territory and it’s a good time for Whitmarsh, at 66, to step back.

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“I have known Andy for many years,” said Whitmarsh. “He will be an incredible asset to Aston Martin Aramco and will make a significant contribution to the execution of our strategy going forward.”

Cowell’s strengths run deeper than just his engineering insight. He proved in his time at Mercedes to be an inspirational leader. It’s easy to see why. He’s open, down-to-earth, no nonsense and very competitive. Ideal qualities for getting a big team of diverse personalities to be directing their talent in the same direction, with a shared understanding of the mission.

Because he’s been away for a few years, he’s seen by some as a left-field appointment. But he absolutely is not. He’s the perfect man for a difficult job. His recruitment just might be the biggest contribution Whitmarsh will have made to the team.