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Otmar Szafnauer departs as Aston Martin F1 boss

Otmar Szafnauer, chief executive officer and team principal of the Aston Martin Formula One team announced his departure on Wednesday.

The Silverstone-based team, owned by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, said in a statement that a leadership team would take over until a replacement was appointed.

“We would like to thank him for the service provided to the team over the past 12 years and wish him well for the future as he will undoubtedly take on new challenges.

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“Fortunately, we are led and managed by a strong group of individuals, and we are comfortable to take a little time to explore options before announcing a new team structure. The focus of the team is currently on preparing the most competitive car possible for the start of the 2022 season,” the statement added.

The Romanian-American engineer joined the team in 2009 when it was Force India, and in 2018 Szafnauer was made team principal when the Stroll consortium took ownership and rebranded to Racing Point.

The team changed to its latest guise as Aston Martin in 2021, when Stroll bought a 16.7% stake in the British sports car manufacturer. Stroll has since appointed former McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh as CEO of Aston Martin Performance Technologies, a role that was senior to Szafnauer’s and oversees the running of the F1 team.

Szafnauer has been linked with a move to rivals Alpine in late 2021, however he described early reports as “pure media speculation” when asked at the Brazilian Grand Prix in November.

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Hulkenberg joins Aston Martin as reserve, development driver

Nico Hulkenberg has been presented as Aston Martin’s official Formula One reserve and development driver this season, the team stated on Thursday.

The experienced German stood in for Mexican Sergio Perez and Canadian Lance Stroll last year when the Silverstone-based team competed as Racing Point, with both drivers testing positive for COVID-19.

Perez has since moved to Red Bull, with Germany’s four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel arriving from Ferrari.

Hulkenberg, 33, is a Le Mans 24 Hours winner and has started 176 F1 grands prix in a career that started with Williams in 2010 and included stints with Racing Point’s predecessors Force India.

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“It’s great to get this deal signed up with plenty of notice,” Hulkenberg said in a statement. “Last year, I didn’t have quite as much time to prepare before jumping in the car.

“Obviously, I’m hoping that Sebastian and Lance enjoy uninterrupted seasons this year, but the team knows it can rely on me to step in and do an excellent job.”

The German had also been linked to a reserve role at champions Mercedes, who provide Aston Martin’s engines.

Mercedes have Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne and Dutch driver Nyck de Vries as reserves but both are competing in Formula E and the calendars overlap at some races this season.

The role has become more important during the pandemic, with Mercedes calling on Williams driver George Russell in Bahrain last December when seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton contracted the virus.

McLaren have an agreement with Mercedes to use their reserve drivers if needed.

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