‘We have all the ingredients to be successful’ – Aston Martin’s new team boss Mike Krack on his mission to win
Mike Krack was sitting at home feeling under the weather when the discussions began that would ultimately lead to him becoming Aston Martin’s Team Principal, as of March 1 2022.
“I was at Petit Le Mans – and I probably caught Covid at Petit Le Mans,” says Krack, speaking on a Zoom call and dressed smartly in a no-nonsense V-neck sweater, sporting a pair of no-nonsense glasses. “I was sitting in my home office for two weeks quarantining after testing positive [for Covid-19]. Then I got a call from a headhunting agency…”
Initially kept in the dark as to who was interested in his services, Krack said it soon became clear that it was Aston Martin – and they were keen for him to join as Team Principal.
“I have to be honest,” smiles Krack, “I was [flattered] by the opportunity that I was offered. There were several meetings with Martin [Whitmarsh, Aston Martin Group Chief Executive Officer] and with Lawrence [Stroll, Executive Chairman] until we came to a point where we shook hands and we said we can do this.”
The news broke in January that Krack would be taking over the role of team boss at Aston Martin, following the parting of ways between the team and Otmar Szafnauer – himself now taking the reins at Alpine.
Krack’s is not a name widely known inside the world of F1, despite the Luxembourg native’s impressive motorsport career – which includes a stint at Sauber/BMW Sauber as an engineer in the 2000s.
But it was his later career away from F1 that brought him to the attention of Stroll and Whitmarsh, Krack rising up – after a stint at Porsche’s winning World Endurance Championship squad, alongside current McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl – to the level of BMW M Motorsport Director, the post he was holding when the headhunters came knocking.
And now, after over 13 years outside of the F1 paddock, he’s back in. And his task is a big one: to spearhead Lawrence Stroll’s five-year plan to turn Aston Martin into World Championship contenders. And it’s clearly not a job the 49-year-old is taking lightly.
“I think Formula 1 is like the Champions League,” says Krack, “and every professional football player wants to play Champions League. It's the same for motorsport, [whether you’re] an engineer or driver. So, from that point of view, it’s the ultimate place to be.
“At Aston Martin, yes, the pressure is there, but I think you have to turn that into positive pressure. Yes, we want to succeed. We have to succeed, but also, we’ve spent so much time and so much budget, and it's not for being second or participating.
“Obviously, you cannot switch and be… winning from the first day,” he adds. “But at the end of the day, it's a huge challenge but it's also a huge opportunity that we have now. With that brand, the Aston Martin brand, we have all the ingredients that you need to be successful.”
From underdog… to Mercedes beater?
Aston Martin may have briefly been a works team in F1 in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But the current squad – purchased by a Stroll-led consortium midway through 2018 – can trace their roots through Racing Point, to Force India, Spyker and Midland, back to the original Jordan team who first competed in F1 in 1991.
The ‘Silverstone Team’ have built a reputation as underdogs who consistently punch above their weight, an ethos Krack says he would be “foolish” to undermine during his tenure.
But work is ongoing on an impressive new 400,000 square foot facility – housing both a new factory and a new wind tunnel, and set for completion by early 2023.
And then there are the high-level technical signings that have been made, including ex-Red Bull man Dan Fallows as Technical Director, along with Luca Furbatto joining from Alfa Romeo, and Eric Blandin transferring from Mercedes.
So can – and should – Krack really try to maintain that underdog ‘Silverstone Team’ spirit, at the same time as attempting to achieve Lawrence Stroll’s very publicly stated goals of turning the fabled name of Aston Martin into F1 frontrunners?
“When you see this huge new building being built, it is overwhelming,” says Krack. “[But] I think you have to approach this in a humble way. You have to first come here and understand how this team is working.
“Because we must not forget this team at Silverstone is a great team; for all these years it… always overperformed to its possibilities and it is important to find out where are the strengths of the team, and where can we make it stronger, where can we improve on some of the weaknesses.
“The infrastructure changes happening here, they are tremendous,” he adds. “It is the first new F1 headquarters being built in 19 years, so it will be state-of-the-art, which clearly shows the ambition that Lawrence, and the team, is having. So, yes, it is a five-year plan; we will have all the possibilities, or all the facilities, that you need to be successful. We progress on our journey.”
Teaming up with Vettel again
In a neat piece of serendipity, Krack’s appointment at Aston Martin also sees him reunite with Sebastian Vettel. The German may be a four-time F1 champion these days – but back in 2006, BMW Sauber charged their then-race engineer Krack with bringing the 19-year-old Vettel up to speed with the rigours of F1.
“When Sebastian arrived for the first time in Turkey in the third car, I was the race engineer!” laughs Krack, referencing Vettel’s infamous Grand Prix weekend debut at Istanbul in 2006, where he was fined for speeding in the pit lane six seconds into his F1 career.
“So, this obviously made a little special link between himself and myself. Last week, he said ‘do you remember when we ran first in our car?’ I think we have a very good relationship. We have not been in touch so much over the years after I had left Formula 1, but when we met again it was like we had seen [each other] yesterday, so it was very, very good to catch up.”
But with Vettel now in the latter stages of his career rather than just starting out, what do Aston Martin, and Krack, need to give him in the short-term to stop his mind turning to a world outside of F1?
“It’s clear that a guy like Sebastian, a four-time world champion, he doesn't want to be 15th or 12th or P8. That is clear,” says Krack.
“I think Sebastian is a clever guy, so he will not be focusing just on this year’s car or whatever, but focusing more on what is happening and if he sees the potential. If we can manage to offer this to him, I think we have a chance to keep him for longer.
“Our task to deliver the right package,” adds Krack, who will also oversee the performance of Lawrence Stroll’s son Lance in the second AMR22 this year. “Then Sebastian will stay, and other drivers would like to join.”
Getting set for 2022
Now ensconced in the Aston Martin team – and with a “fantastic Aston Martin DB11” company car parked on his drive to boot – Krack’s first job will be to oversee the team’s running at the Official Pre-Season Test in Bahrain on March 10-12, ahead of the season start on March 20.
Seventh in the constructors’ standings in 2021 is a result that Lawrence Stroll most certainly won’t want to see replicated at Aston Martin in 2022. But what will a good season look like for Krack?
“First of all, we have to have a very, very competitive car. This is key,” he replies. “So, we will have to concentrate all of our effort to make the car as quick as possible and to develop it at the highest possible rate.
“If we manage to do that, we will be in a very good position at the end of the year. We must not forget that we also have very, very strong competition and we have to respect what they are doing.
“But we have to try to be better in these areas and see at the end of the year where we are. If we can make this comment here out in Abu Dhabi, I will be a very happy man.”