Once he committed to team ownership as opposed to the sponsorship of his son, Lance, the pedal was to the floor. He wanted to be Ferrari yesterday.
The departure of team principal Otmar Szafnauer can be seen as a consequence of that. The moment ex-McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh arrived as group CEO in September, Szafnauer’s postion was untenable.
Though Stroll insisted there was no duplication of roles, in reality there was only room for one leader. The term “group” is key here since outside of the team there doesn’t appear to be one.
It would seem Szafnauer, though asked to report to Whitmarsh, understood immediately there was only one throne. Since he had no wish to share it he could see no reasonable future at the team and walked.
He will have no shortage of offers. In his 12 years at the organisation, first as Force India and then Racing Point he took team from 9th to fourth. The drop to seventh last season was a consequence of the late imposition of aero changes to the design of the floor that hit Aston Martin and Mercedes hardest.
Aston Martin did not have the resources to throw at the problem that Mercedes did and chose early on to focus their efforts on the 2022 car instead.
Szafnauer is not the only staff member to leave since the arrival of Stroll, under whose leadership the atmosphere and focus of the team has changed.
Stroll is a micro-manager with a much more hands on approach than former Force India magnate Vijay Mallya, who allowed Szafnauer to run the operation without interference.
As the results show, Szafnauer squeezed every inch of performance from a limited budget, the rewards resulting from the feeling of togetherness and inclusivity he engendered.
There is no room for sentiment under Stroll, who made his fortune in the fashion industry via the Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors brands. He knows how business works and believes he can deploy in Formula One the same aggressive methods. Thus the rapid upscaling of investment in personnel and infrastructure.
Whitmarsh has not been the only high profile appointment. Mercedes chief aerodynamicist Eric Blandin, Red Bull aero chief Dan Fallows and Alfa Romeo chief designer Luca Furbatto have all been recruited. And only last September Stroll announced the £200 redevelopment of the team’s Silverstone site to include a new wind tunnel and simulator, as he attempts to fast track Aston Martin to the top of the grid.
This is a route not dissimilar to that taken by Toyota, who threw upwards of £3bn at Formula One during their nine-season stay and failed to win a race between 2002 and 2009.
Stroll has set a target of five years to conquer the sport. The irony is, he might have got there quicker with a higher regard for the people skills and wise counsel of Szafnauer.
In a statement the team struck a neutral gear: “Otmar Szafnauer has left the company and his role will be managed within the leadership team until a replacement is 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.
“Fortunately we are led and managed by a strong group of individuals, and we are comfortable to take time to explore options before announcing a new team structure.”