Dan Fallows: Welcome to Aston Martin's Silverstone facility

A trip round the F1 team's base of operations...
09 July 2024

Interview with 

Dan Fallows, Aston Martin

CHRIS AT ASTON MARTIN.jpeg

Chris Smith at Silverstone

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In this edition of Titans of Science, it’s the turn of the British Formula One engineer Dan Fallows. He’s currently technical director at Aston Martin and took us on a tour of their base in Silverstone...

Dan - I'm Dan Fallows. I'm the technical director here at Aston Martin Aramco Formula One team. We are here in our fabulous technology campus here in Silverstone.

Chris - This is a brand new building.

Dan - It is. We moved into this building nearly a year ago now, and it's part of the three buildings that we're moving into. We've moved into the first one and now we've got two more that are being built and we're going to move in towards the end of the year.

Chris - It's big. How many people work here?

Dan - So there's over 800 people working in this building. It's grown quite a lot as a team in the last two years, but yes, over 800 people here ranging from engineering to manufacturing and everything in between.

Chris - We're standing in the atrium. The question that is foremost in my mind as I came through the revolving door is ‘there is an F1 car in the atrium’. How on earth did it get in here? Did you take the wall down?

Dan - Fortunately we have enough room to be able to squeeze it in at the back of the atrium, but yeah. Yes it does look, when it's in here, it does look a little bit like it's arrived out of space or something. <laugh>.

Chris - It certainly looks space age. I've never been this close to an F1 car. Can you give us some of the sort of specs for geeks like me as to what's in front of us, what this is capable of, and what goes into making that thing do what it does.

Dan - This is I think the fastest racing car in the world. I mean, Formula One cars are in terms of how fast they're able to go around a circuit. This, the car that we see in front of us, is a modern specification of the latest regulations. And it's around the same kind of size as a family car. It's two metres wide. It's just over four metres long. It's a little bit longer than a normal family car, but it weighs a lot less, you know, it's, um, around 800 kilograms, which is probably around half the weight of a normal family car. It has a very small engine inside it. It has a power unit, which is a hybrid power unit. So which means that it has a normal petrol engine, but it also has a battery attached to that as well, and that produces up to around a thousand horsepower. So again, probably four or five times the power that a normal family car would produce and obviously lightweight with a lot of power means that it does go incredibly quickly.

Chris - I'm just thinking I've got a quad bike that I rebuilt is 50 horsepower. It weighs about the same as that <laugh>.

Dan - Yes. And I can imagine that probably feels fairly scary to drive as well. I mean it's unimaginable how much it would be like to drive one of these things. In fact lots of times people ask you, well, how fast can it go? But in truth, you know, the top speed is around 200 miles an hour, which by any standards is very quick. But we don't make it go as fast as it could do in a straight line because we're most interested in minimising lap time around circuits. And so going fast around corners as well as just going fast in a straight line.

Chris - There are presumably a range of different elements that go into going very fast and going very fast safely. They presumably are the engine that gives you the push, the wheels that get that force onto the road and hold the road, but then also this amazing sleek design that means that you're not giving half that energy to the air you're pushing out of the way as you go around the track. I mean, is that reasonable, to my uneducated, non-formal way of thinking? Is that a reasonable summary?

Dan - Yes, it is. Absolutely. We have things that make the difference in terms of the performance of the car. The driver is obviously one part of that. But in terms of the design, the way that we build the car, the most important things to us are the power unit, how much energy we can put into the car and the road; the tyres that stick the car to the road; and then the aerodynamics, which is the shape of the car and how we are using the wind at speed to help those tyres perform. And as you say, to make sure that the car is slippery enough to go through the air fast enough.

Chris - And is that what you do here in this building? Do you, do you build all these parts literally hand making each of the parts that are going on there week after week?

Dan - Yes, we absolutely do. I mean, effectively every car is a prototype. When you make a normal car or normally any engineering thing, you would normally build a prototype and then you build the actual thing. Well, what we build here are prototypes, so it means that we have to be able to do that as quickly as possible and as efficiently as we can. And that means everything has to be made on site. We do make some things externally, but generally everything is made here at the factory in Silverstone.

Chris - Where should we start?

Dan - I think we should start with the composites manufacturing, you know, that's really the backbone of the car. So I'll take you there and show you around.

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