Before we even get into the £154,650 Aston Martin Vantage F1 Coupe or F1 Roadster, if you prefer, with its 535PS cannonade of V8 power (up 25PS from the base Vantage), we need to talk about that man in the silver Peugeot 3008 crossover. There he is to my right stationery at the set of traffic lights with his entire family in tow. Looking straight ahead, I get this odd feeling he’s staring across at me. So I look over. His wife, next to him, is scrolling through her phone. Oh no, not for her, a tasty green Aston Martin Vantage F1 with an over-the-top rear wing that Airbus would give low whistles to. No, Mrs. B&Q is studiously ignoring the grumbling car next to her.
The man, meanwhile, stares at the sad stare of a person who has just seen his life – the one he sellotaped to his bedroom wall of super performance cars when he was 11 – slowly slide away. Ashen-faced, he gives me a half nod of a condemned man from his Peugeot. The I-might-as-well-kiss-all-my-dreams-goodbye-one. Me? Well, and wanting to be as empathetic as possible, I’m having the time of my life. The lights go green, and the Aston roars up the motorway onramp and out of his life for good.
If the Vantage’s F1 nomenclature stumps you, it’s all to do with the Formula One racing. After decades Aston Martin is back racing in Formula One under the stewardship of Aston’s new boss Tobias Moers. To support this effort, Aston Martin is providing this Vantage F1 Coupe and DBX as Official Safety Cars of Formula 1. Using chassis and aerodynamic improvements, the modest 25bhp hike in the Vantage’s peak torque remains at 685Nm. Subtle the tweaks are in, in F1 guise, they noticeably sharpen the gearbox’s changes by maximizing the torque between auto gearshifts.
You’ll have needed to drive the base Vantage to understand the improvements, but there’s no mistaking they have sharpened the tautness of the Vantage’s driving experience. There is a definite incendiary feel to the engine in third gear at lower speeds, and the 4.0 liter V8 grumbles with impatience, waiting to surge forward like a red setter on a lead that’s been cooped up all day. The work done by Aston’s engineers might be impossible to pinpoint – higher spring rates by 30 percent and bolstered lateral stiffness improves the steering turn-in – all this work is clearly with a beady eye on track days. That is, of course, if you fancy risking your pricey Vantage F1 on a track populated with mouth-breathing petrolheads driving way beyond their limits and clattering right into you.
It’s best to consider the Vantage F1 as a tighter and higher-focused car. Even the downforce, attributed to the rear wing, has increased from 40kg to 150kg. This shameless tweaker is a bit like electricity powering your home. You understand what it does but are clueless to explain what was done behind the scenes to deliver it to you.
If all those technical numbers have still not helped spot the Vantage F1 on the street, it’s still easy enough to pick one out. Look out for the huge rear wing, deeper front splitter, and underbody driving vanes. The rear diffuser is unchanged, yet somehow it looks bigger and more menacing with the large rear wing in place. Add to that the Aston Martin Racing Green paint (in gloss or satin), Jet Black or Lunar White, and bigger 22” alloy wheels, up from 21” in the regular Vantage.
Interestingly the Vantage F1 is not a limited number of production cars. If you’ve got the money, you can order one today and, within around 5 months or so, have one of your very own. Aston’s entire model production is segmented to around 6,500 DBXs, 3,000 of the regular cars, including this Vantage F1, and 500 special editions for the delayed hypercars. Cabin and trim uplifts see black leather and liberally applied Alcantara on the upholstery with the addition of an F1 badge glued into the central console, front wings, and emblazoned into the door sills. Only you can decide if official F1 badges on your Vantage F1 are a good thing or not.
All of this begs the question: is this new halo Vantage worth the extra money over the standard car? Power is only up by a small 25bhp, and choosing Track mode in the suspension dampers is too extreme on ordinary roads due to inherent suspension stiffness. The ultimate precision has been increased just enough to win a prospective Vantage buyer to uplift to this halo F1 version. Aston Martin is not chasing Porsche GT3 sales, and that’s a very good thing. Chiefly because there’s far more to memorable drives than track days and milliseconds off a previous best lap time. When I tested the Vantage a few years ago, it won me over and quickly became my favorite model from Gaydon. The Vantage F1 is now a worthy high tier – the halo car if you wish – of Vantage coupes.
Mark Gallivan’s stats:
Model: 2022 Aston Martin Vantage F1
Price: from £154,650 as tested
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, front mid-mounted, rear-wheel drive, ZF eight-speed rear-mounted gearbox
Performance: 0-100km in 3.5 seconds Coupe (3.7 seconds Roadster) 535PS/685Nm, 314kph top speed
Fuel consumption: 24.3mpg – 11.6 L/100km, 337g/km CO2
Verdict: Subtle performance hike widens the Vantage’s brutal appeal. Rarity guaranteed from Aston Martin’s best driver’s car