Aston Martin is returning to the Formula One grid. Only instead of starting its own team – or even taking control of an existing one – the British automaker is reportedly on the verge of announcing a new partnership with the Force India team.

According to Autosport, the deal would see the team switch names from its current national identity to Aston Martin Racing. Beyond naming rights, however, the partnership could see the two outfits partner on technical collaborations as well. The Johnnie Walker whisky brand – a longtime McLaren partner – is said to be joining as a sponsor of the newly rebranded team, which has previously featured branding from whisky brands Royal Challenge, Whyte & Mackay, and Dalmore. The current engine deal with Mercedes (which owns part of Aston Martin) is expected to stay in place.

Force India isn't the only team Aston Martin is said to have evaluated. Previous reports had linked the manufacturer of luxury GT cars to Red Bull, while Williams was also said to have been under consideration for such a partnership. Ultimately, however, it appears to be cash-strapped (and strong-performing) Force India that has sealed the deal, expected to be announced in due course.

If the notion of an automaker sponsoring (but not running) an F1 team strikes you as odd, it isn't without relevant precedent. Infiniti has long sponsored the Red Bull team that is powered by its corporate cousin Renault. That deal was brokered while the Japanese luxury brand was chaired by Andy Palmer, who now runs Aston Martin. Aside from considerable achievements in sports car racing, the British firm only participated in F1 for a few races in 1959 and 1960.

The deal would put an end to the Force India name that has adorned the team since Indian businessman Vijay Mallya took it over late in 2007. Mallya, it should be noted, helms United Spirits Limited, which produces all those beverages mentioned previously that have sponsored Force India. The team was founded in 1991 as Jordan Grand Prix, under whose name it ran until 2005 when it switched ownership and name first to Midland and then to Spyker. Mallya sold nearly half of the team's stake to the Sahara India Pariwar conglomerate in 2011. Since taking over the team, Force India has gone from a back-marker in tenth place to a solid midfield contender routinely landing sixth in the championship standings and currently running fifth this season. The team has yet to score as many podium finishes, however, as it did outright grand prix victories in the Jordan era.

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