Rumour has it that Tobias Moers arrived at the UK headquarters of Aston Martin as its new boss and the first thing he did was say he wanted to unlock the real potential of the new Vantage. Okay it might not have been the first thing, but it was one of the first things he did, probably.
But the man who oversaw the Mercedes-AMG GT wanted the Vantage to be more, and what better way to do that than to tie it in with Aston's new role in Formula One? The F1 Edition is not the same as the new F1 safety car, but it is based on it, sort of. Whatever it is or isn't based on, the fact is that this is not a limited-edition model, it is the new flagship of the Vantage range.
In the metal
We were already impressed with the new Vantage. We expected it to continue the lineage of being more GT than proper sports car. We were wrong. Not only did it have more sports car character than ever, more attitude and less restraint, for the first time we could genuinely justify comparing it to the benchmark Porsche 911.
The F1 Edition takes the sporty theme much further. The exterior features a specially developed aerodynamic body kit, which contributes to an additional 200kg of downforce over the regular Vantage at the maximum speed of 314km/h. It includes a full width splitter below the front bumper, front dive planes and a large rear wing that completes the race-car-for-the-road look.
There are also a number of unique colour schemes, including the official Aston Martin Racing Green with a contrasting stripe designed to mimic that of Aston’s Formula 1 car.
The stripe is present inside too, where it adorns the racy but comfortable sports seats clad in black leather and grey Alcantara. That stripe can be yellow, lime green, black, grey or red, all of which can also be used in the stitching. Alcantara is used to clad the steering wheel, which further adds to that feeling of being in a car that is keen to get to the track.
It's all reasonably spacious for a sports car, with easy-to-use switchgear, decent visibility and the kind of comfort levels that you'd expect from an Aston.
It's a Vantage dialled up a level, not least of all when it comes to the drive.
Moers said he wanted the F1 Edition to appeal to the most discerning drivers. It had be more powerful, more agile, more immediate and more exciting to drive, in his words "a true athlete."
In order to ascertain whether the engineers fulfilled the brief, we jumped into the driver's seat and headed through the British countryside to Silverstone race track, where we were told the Stowe Circuit was all ours for as long as we needed it - nice.
First up, though, a chance to experience the GT side of the Vantage, which is still very much there. The driving position is good, the paddles easy to reach and visibility reasonable for a sports car. The suspension might have been tweaked more for sporty driving, but it trundles along nicely without making too much noise and we could easily imagine using it to go to a swanky evening do. So yes, you probably could drive from Dublin to the French Riviera and not feel as though you need to undergo joint correction.
Unless you're purely after bragging rights then what you really want to know is how it handled on the track. Let's get this out of the way straight away - it's not quite as precise as the 911. Nothing really is. You don't feel as one with the car, but there is a three-way conversation between you, the car and the road, all having their say, all egging you on or telling you to rein it in.
Stowe sits inside the main Silverstone track and is quite technical, but with plenty of wide corners to explore the limits. It was my first time on the track, so a few laps were needed to get used to it before unleashing the Vantage's inner demon.
The steering feedback is excellent, the gearbox response fast and precise and, unless you really want to feel involved, it's all best left in auto. There are plenty of settings to play with though, through Sport, Sport+ and Track, although, like the regular Vantage, you annoyingly have to go through them all to get back to Normal.
There's a fantastic soundtrack - not as loud as the AMG GT or as composed as the 911, but a great balance between the two, and certainly more dramatic than the regular Vantage. Grip levels are superb too, thanks to bespoke Pirelli tyres. Moers was adamant he didn't want super-sticky racing tyres, so they're a compromise between road and track, but they work well, eventually releasing their grip slightly as the rear slides elegantly out of a corner.
We regularly hear promises of a car you can drive on the road to the track, have fun and then drive home again. Those promises sometimes prove to be slightly untrue, but not so in the case of the Vantage F1, as it delivers on everything it promises and does so with style.
What you get for your money
You get a flagship Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition, that's what you get for your money. What more do you want? Navigation or infotainment? Actually, you do get all that, although it's not the best infotainment system around. You also get lots of leather and Alcantara upholstery, carbon fibre exterior details, F1 Edition badges and graphics, quad exhausts, special satin-black diamond-turned 21-inch wheels and a really big wing that dominates your rear-view mirrors.
Tobias Moers wanted the engineers to unlock the true potential of the Vantage and they have done that remarkably well. So well in fact that you have to wonder why they didn't do that in the first place and make this not the F1 Edition, but the Vantage. Of course, not everyone will want the big wing, need 200kg of extra downforce or desire the slightly sportier interior. The regular Vantage is a great sports car, but for drivers, the F1 Edition is just a bit more exceptional.