Aston Martin 2021 Vettel! – 2020 was a tough one to watch if you were a Seb fan. In fact, it was pretty tough to watch even if you were impartial when it came to Vettel. He’s a four-time world champion, the third most successful driver of all time in terms of race wins, third on the list of podiums and fourth when it comes to pole positions, and yet he finished 13th in the drivers’ championship last season with a third of the points of his teammate Charles Leclerc.
Vettel had one third place (accounting for 15 of his 33 points), a sixth, a seventh and four P10s. More often than not, he finished outside the top 10.
And that just doesn’t tally with what he has achieved before, and what he is capable of. For my own sanity and ability to tell people ‘it’s not all about the car, you don’t win four world titles by getting lucky’, he has to fare better at Aston Martin alongside Lance Stroll. He just has to.
Sebastian Vettel still loves this game. The frown has been readier than the smile in the last couple of years, but he is still in there applying himself hard.
He’s a proud man and he will not have wanted that career to go out with a whimper – and the Aston Martin gig has the attraction of potential.
A Mercedes-related car with an ambitious wealthy owner is possibly the material with which to do some giant-slaying. Furthermore, the prospect of a straightforward, simple racing team – like he used to enjoy at Red Bull – after the intrigues and mistrust that have clearly developed between him and Ferrari will surely have felt very appealing.
From Lawrence Stroll’s perspective it’s a fantastic coup with which to get the Aston Martin brand off to a flying start. From a team perspective, Vettel’s going to bring an energy that should get it buzzing.
He needs very specific things from a car to perform at his best. He will find more lap time than most if he gets those things but lose more than some if he doesn’t.
It’s been a while since we saw him dance a fast car to the edge – Singapore last year, probably – but at just 33 years old, that’s still in him surely.
Sebastian Vettel is a four-time world champion and an all-time F1 great and nobody’s taking that away from him. He’s also been let go by his current team, and his form relative to Charles Leclerc, compared to Carlos Sainz Jr’s form at McLaren, is currently proving Ferrari correct in that particular decision.
Take 2020 and 2021 in isolation and, as absurdly harsh as that sounds, Vettel will have ‘failed upwards’ – not unlike his 2015 move to Ferrari having been outperformed by Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.
Leclerc has Vettel covered this year and yet if Racing Point and Ferrari maintain their current pace levels into next year, it’s Vettel who will have the better car.
That’s not to say it’s some grave injustice against Leclerc, or that it’s impossible to make a case for a four-time world champion to land a good drive on the grid.
It’s just that Racing Point’s top-performing driver being released from a multi-year contract early, in order to make way for someone who’s currently being outperformed by their team-mate, just doesn’t make a ton of sense when you look at it purely in a sporting context.
Putting aside the obvious doubts about Vettel’s wheel-to-wheel racecraft given the last two-and-a-half years, we shouldn’t forget this is a four-time world champion driver. And there have been signs within the decline at Ferrari that the champion-calibre driver is still in there.
Vettel did lead Charles Leclerc in the championship at the halfway point of last season before Leclerc benefited most from Ferrari’s hugely controversial upturn in form after the summer break.
His pole lap in Canada was one of those ‘well, Vettel’s just unbeatable’ kind of days. He was mega in traffic in Singapore after strategy shuffled him ahead of Leclerc on the road. He was ruthless at the start of the Russian GP when he got past Leclerc at the start by virtue of a tow and Leclerc holding up his end of a pre-race deal about the first lap – only for Vettel to defy the agreement by refusing to let Leclerc back ahead.
Small details from this season like overruling Ferrari on strategy in Hungary and Spain – the two places he has finished better than 10th this season and Vettel’s drive in Formula 1’s Turkish GP yielded a first podium and comfortably his best result of 2020. It was one of his most comprehensive performances, aided by being able to break out of the vicious circle that has trapped him most of the year.
Maybe these moments were too few and far between but they couldn’t happen at all if Vettel has become a permanently sub-par world champion.
He has also been a driver who thrives with an arm around the shoulder and struggles when things go against him. Over the last two-and-a-half years Vettel has only encountered more obstacles – next year we’ll know how big a part Ferrari played in that.
A motivated Vettel is a great signing for Aston Martin.
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THE NEXT RACE 2021
|02:00 - 03:30||Free practice 1|
|06:00 - 07:30||Free practice 2|
|04:00 - 05:00||Free practice 3|
|07:00 - 07:18||Qualifying|
|06:10 - 08:10||Race|