Will Vettel justify Aston Martin’s faith in their “statement of intent” signing?

2021 F1 season

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From the moment Sebastian Vettel’s impending departure from Ferrari was announced last May, speculation was rife where the four-times champion might end up.

Could Mercedes take him? Team principal Toto Wolff made it clear that would only be considered if they needed a replacement for Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas. Might he return to Red Bull? That was repeatedly dismissed by the team’s management.

But even before Fernando Alonso grabbed Daniel Ricciardo’s soon-to-be-vacant seat at Renault (make that Alpine), Aston Martin seemed a more obvious fit for Vettel.

The team currently known as Racing Point is one of the smaller outfits on the grid but Lawrence Stroll, who bought it two years ago, has big plans. Facilities have been upgraded, hardware improved, staff hired.

The huge step forward the team has taken with its RP20 this year is the first glimpse of the scale of Stroll’s ambition for it. From the 2021 F1 season it will carry the name of the luxury car manufacturer he purchased earlier this year.

Clearly, the opportunity to hire a driver straight from Ferrari, and one with Vettel’s exceptional pedigree, was too good to pass up. So much so Stroll was willing to sever a three-year deal inked with Sergio Perez around this time last year. That can’t have been cheap.

This was always going to be a hammer blow for Perez, who’d made a long-term commitment to the team following a succession of one-year deals. After weeks of denials over the jeopardy his seat was in, Perez confirmed yesterday he is to leave Racing Point.

Announcing Vettel’s appointment this morning, Racing Point described it as “a statement of intent” and devoted several paragraphs to detailing his achievements in Formula 1. And well they should: Four world championships and 53 race wins is an achievement anyone one the grid – bar Lewis Hamilton – would envy.

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But in recent seasons it’s been hard to shake the impression Vettel’s best days are behind him. With a competitive Ferrari in 2017 and 2018, he came up short in the championship contest with Hamilton, too many points squandered with a series of errors.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
Perez is making way for Vettel at what will become Aston Martin
When Charles Leclerc replaced Kimi Raikkonen alongside him last year, things only got worse. From mid-season the newcomer was the quicker of the two drivers, and drew ahead of his team mate in the points standings as Vettel’s patchy form continued.

By the end of the year Ferrari decided its future lay not with the star driver who left Red Bull to join them in 2015, but their new young charge, who was signed to a long-term deal. They announced in May that Vettel would be shown the door at the end of the year.

It clearly isn’t the case that Aston Martin have lured Vettel away from Ferrari. The most dramatic aspect of this move isn’t the hiring of Vettel, but the firing of Perez, who had two years left on his contract.

Signing your long-standing driver to a three-year deal and then cutting it short halfway through the first season is undoubtedly a big call. In that respect, bringing in Vettel undoubtedly is a “statement of intent”. The crucial question is whether it will pay off.

Vettel’s recent struggles notwithstanding, there is a lot to be said for hiring him. He is highly experienced and understands the ingredients of a race-winning operation – which this team last was in 1999, as Jordan.

His determination to prove he is still a force in Formula 1 should not be underestimated. What’s more, he has a deep and sincere passion for the sport – he recently added one of F1’s most revered cars, a Williams-Renault FW14B, to his garage.

Bringing in a big name like Vettel will only enhance the self-belief among the team’s staff. “Everybody at Silverstone is hugely excited by this news” said Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer today. This is a team whose very existence was in doubt a little over two years ago, and has come a long way in a short space of time.

What they require from Vettel is a driver who will pounce on opportunities to snatch big results when they are on offer – much like they failed to do at Monza last weekend. While Vettel hasn’t always looked like that driver in recent years, Aston Martin are betting that form is temporary, but class is permanent.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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68 comments on “Will Vettel justify Aston Martin’s faith in their “statement of intent” signing?”

  1. Vettel will pull a Gasly when he starts next year. Dropped by top team and in midfield and will shine. No chance for championship but he will enjoy himself like Kimi. Personally I am looking forward to 2022 instead of 2021 as the regulation changes will be like shuffling the deck.

    1. maybe it might also depend on whether Seb’s car has a ‘race active adjustable floor’ in 2021

    2. I think he will too.

      His zenith was the second half of 2013 which I think it’s fair to say he won’t repeat again. But with a new lease of life I think he’ll impress in 2021.

    3. You mean “Dropped by top team and against lesser team mate will ‘shine’.”

  2. i am not sure Vettel can get his mojo back- however, i don’t really Think it is as big a deal as people make it out to be as- unpopular opinion- i Think it has been a while since Perez actually impressed.

    1. @mrboerns Captures my sentiments. I don’t see any of the three (Vettel, Perez, Stroll) as inspiring options. Vettel will be a better ‘narrative’, but then not necessarily a good one for RP as everyone will be waiting to see if the same mistakes start happening. On the flip side, it’s difficult to tell where RP will be in 2022, but probably not as high as now.

      1. A possible reputation boost for Stroll Jnr if he is able to outperform a 4 times world champion, what are the odds of that?

        1. Maybe the Stroll dynasty sees it that way, but the opposite I think: most people would just take it as a sign that Vettel’s career has reached terminal velocity.

  3. I can perfectly understand Lawrence Stroll wanting to hit back at Ferrari after the brake ducts fiasco (especially since Ferrari’s ‘special engine deal’ last year)
    It may well be that release from the prancing horse’s fatuous kicking may be a confidence booster for Seb.
    I do like Seb. It would be nice to see him hitting some reasonable form again. And therein lies the rub !

  4. Don’t think it’s the right call. Vettel hasn’t shown that much since his winning years with Red Bull.
    And after Red Bull career I do think he is overrated as a driver (top 10 driver in F1)

    Aston Martin will, for me, have one of the worse lineups next year.

    Hope Perez will continue in Haas next year with KMag, however Williams might be a better car.

    1. The last time Vettel had his first season with a new team, he was arguably the best driver on the grid. He may have a chance to impress with this team again if it suits him.

      I think you are being a bit harsh saying this will be among the worst line ups next year. Stroll has been pretty impressive this year (at least as good as Perez) and we confirm that vettel will be poor next year. Stroll seems to simply be getting better, and that could well continue.

      I think Perez deserves a chance in Haas, but unless Magnussen destroys Grosjean which he isn’t (and didn’t last year despite what it looked like), I think they will just as likely if not more likely keep Grosjean over Magnussen. The team are pretty new in F1 and it is beneficial to them to have a driver that has been with them from the start. While Grosjean isn’t always a great driver on race day every weekend, he’s a very good development driver and gives very valuable feedback to the team which I don’t think people give him enough credit for. I only see Grosjean leaving the team for next year unless he has a disastrous season.

      1. I think Magnussen brings some cash with him though @thegianthogweed, so it is likely Grosjean being the one to be dumped. Honestly, I can see an argument for Haas to grab Hulkenberg and Perez!

        1. @bascb

          according to the last estimates on this site of the salaries, Grosjean was at something like $7,000 while Magnussen was significantly less than that. Most other places I’ve seen guesses, although they have usually been close elsewhere, I’ve never seen Magnussen have more funding than Grosjean.

      2. @thegianthogweed

        The last time Vettel had his first season with a new team, he was arguably the best driver on the grid.

        Was he though? Or was he just less worse than Raikkonen?

        The situation was rather similar to the one that Verstappen is in This season. Driving a car that is no competition for Mercedes (apart from then the high temperature, high altitude and high downforce tracks), but also had no competition from behind.

        1. You could basically question if Hamilton was the best driver over the past few seasons then? Vettel at least had a challenge with mercedes throughout 2015 and was rated No.1 on this site:

          https://www.racefans.net/2015/12/18/2015-f1-driver-rankings-1-sebastian-vettel/

          I wouldn’t argue with hamilton being the best the last few seasons, but I do agree Vettel was the best this year.

    2. In all honesty, you are over rating Perez just a little. Stretching a tyre stint a few laps longer than some of his competitors is a useful skill, but a driver needs to show rather more than that to be considered for a top team. Perez never did.

      1. Perez is a nice guy. Man enough to know when he is getting screwed over and at the same time smart enough to understand why and leaves with Dignity.
        But a reality check tells us that he isn’t up to giving back what Vettle will in all cases. That’s the truth about the man. Applies to both of them doesn’t it? I don’t insult Perez by saying this, I admire that he knows his place in Formula One. Somebody suggested he move to Haas along with Hulkenberg. That would be very SMART for Haas If they pull it off. Dump their drivers and start over. They too will see the merits of that decision. That would bring stability and potential growth to a team that might become vulnerable with current drivers. Haas with Perez and Hulk would be as smart as Alpine with Vettle and Stroll.
        A smart ending to the story. Two teams grow by understanding their place and both could reap the rewards of these decisions.
        Seek Third Place in 2021 Alpine and that’ll be just where you want to be when the rules change again.

    3. “Vettel hasn’t shown that much”?Yea well if your team doesn’t allow you to, and keep screwing up with pitstops and bad cars, you can’t, can you? You think Seb wanted all this? He didn’t do any of this stuff by choice you know? I admit, he did some mistakes himself but Ferrari screwed him over, more then I can count…

  5. I think Vettel found the culture at Ferrari hard. I expect he will be much more comfortable with AM and results should follow. I’m of the opinion that this is a really good match up for everyone involved. Best seat Vettel could have hoped for. Look forward to seeing what AM can do over the next few seasons!

    1. He started finding the culture even harder when Leclerc joined the team and started showing true potential of the car.

  6. Crazy world if Vettel gets spanked by stroll :)

    I hope Vettel can pick himself up and actually be fast and consistent with few mistakes, RP needs that with the razor sharp competition in the midfield.

  7. A slightly unrelated observation, but Vettel seems to have aged very quickly. It might be the matter of genetics, but it also might have contributed to his drop of performance.

    1. Both most likely a consequence of the stress of driving for Ferrari. We shall see.

  8. I’m not convinced that this is a pure race-result decision since I am not wholly convinced that Vettel will deliver significantly better results relative to Perez. Commercially it will cost a huge amount to buy out 2 years of a contract and replace with a hugely salaried driver like Vettel. However a budget cap in 2021 will mean that you could justify this since the savings could not have been reinvested in the car.

    To me this has a more ‘brand ambassador’ feel to it and is designed to help build Aston Martin’s credibility and reputation as a whole (not just the F1 side). However Vettel is not exactly known for his endorsements and adverts so it would need to shift in his focus here, maybe he is being paid in shares to encourage him to be more proactive here. Who knows!

    1. +1 I think thats a big area which is often over looked. Perez is a likeable guy and a solid racer, but Vettel comes with the Championships and the top tier tag. While he may not be performing to those levels right now, I believe he can still pull out some strong performances and say the right things to market Aston Martin much more than Perez could.

    2. I’m interested about the money side. Aston’s share price has been in steady decline for ages and now they’re worth about an eleventh of what they were in 2018. The company is looking shaky especially with the world entering the largest recession since the black death, generally when people have no money the last thing they look at buying is a supercar.

      So I get they’re saving money on Lance Stroll’s salary, but surely it’s a huge gamble to enter F1, a sport with a deserved reputation for basically bankrupting anyone but the very top teams, who only break even from their legacy payouts. Does adding Vettel’s salary on top of the already stupid costs make sense? Or has Vettel taken such a pay cut he’s basically driving for free?

      How is Aston going to make this move work? Are they going to manage to increase sales of their road cars enough to warrant F1? Or is Daddy Stroll basically just going to bankroll the whole shebang to give Lance a chance, how long can he do that? Can their road car business survive Brexit, their new factory is in Wales and unless UK manages to get trade deals with EU and US will anyone buy their cars with a massive import tariff instead of say a Ferrari?

    3. It’s not. It’s a 100% marketing decision to make an ex-champ the face of the Aston Martin car brand.

    4. Make sense. Just like Kimi in Alfa Romeo, there will be lots of Vettel TV ads next year. Racing Point already showing new Aston Martin car with Vettel plate. 5EB AMFI.

    5. Indeed. This again has the hallmarks of the move made by Seb’s mentor Michael Schumacher.

      A great brand – Mercedes – wants to make a grand comeback into the sport in 2010 and rely on the services of a retired-past his prime-7 time world champion. Replace Mercedes with Aston Martin, 7 with 4, and 2010 with 2020.

      Personally, not thrilled about this move. Seb can only damage his reputation via this as Aston Martin is likely to go backward with the copying loophole in rules fixed and he will be left trying to get a few points (same as Ferrari right now). He gets no points for beating Stroll, but loses a whole lot of reputation for losing to him.

      But hopeful for F1 as a whole with this move. May be Aston Martin are indeed serious about F1 and become yet another constructor in the sport as time passes.

      1. Very good reply and good statement about the similarities.

      2. I feel Massa is a better comparision. Almost won a WDC with Ferrari, only to drop off a bit in pace and then move on to a midfield team and have Stroll as a teammate, while getting replaced with a number 2 driver (Kimi in ’14, and let’s face it, Carlos unfortunately will most likely be too)

  9. Seb is a lovely guy outside of the cockpit. Really personable in interviews etc.

    I think this move will answer the questions everyone is asking of him. Has he still got it?

    I think he is clearly a ‘confidence’ driver and Ferrari hasn’t given him that. He clearly can’t be his best when a car is far away from his desired style and team support is withering. Neither did he have a car he was confident to drive on the edge in his final years with Red Bull.

    The Aston Martin next season will either prove his worth or prove he is in decline. I’m definitely interested to see that.

    Perez had one good race in Malaysia and everyone though he was a superstar. I’ve always felt he was a little short of the mark. An average driver who had accidentally found the sweet spot on a thought day. He’s never hammered a team mate.

    Stroll is in daddy’s team. He was never going to go. But he is better than a mere pay driver, again he is average in F1 terms. He will learn a lot from having Seb in his sister car, even if he is no longer the force he was. He’s still young and able to improve.

    I think the deal makes sense from all angles.

    Hopefully Perez will take Grosjean’s seat. Grosjean has been hanging onto the coat tails of F1 for too long now. Perez doesn’t deserve to leave the sport. But then neither did Hülkenberg. Hülkenberg / Perez would actually be a good move for Haas.

    1. Vettel’s drivingstyle is unique. He’s all about backend grip and aggressive kerb to kerb driving. There’s a reason why he loved the double blown diffuser and mastered it first. He wringed the neck of those rbr cars like no one else could. And rbr made it possible for him to do so.

      He loves to play with aero rather then engines which would explain the ferrari car not being suitable for him.

      1. Makes sense. He was on fire in the 2017 Ferrari which was all about downforce, but struggled in the 2019 Ferrari which had more engine power but also more drag. Leclerc seems to be fine with the opposite, he was doing really well with low DF in Silverstone 1. Would be interesting to see how he adapts to AM/RP.

    2. And he indeed has a great personallity. Sometimes I even want him to be the face of F1.

    3. As you say, to be fair to Stroll he isn’t in the category saved for the likes of Yuji Ide, Taki Inoue or Jean-Louis Deletraz. Ignoring the obvious, he seems to be a serviceable no.2 who in normal circumstances might have earned his place on merit (again, ignoring the obvious which clearly and arguably correctly changes the assessment).

      But I disagree with you on Perez, and for similar reasons that I feel that Hulkenberg is overrated.

      You can podium once on luck. Twice, still arguably lucky. But Sergio has 8 podiums to his name in what has always been inferior machinery – even counting his year at McLaren, he’s not had a top 3 car to drive. That and I thought his 1st drive in Australia 2011 was impressive, being able to manage the tyres with just one stop and finishing in the points (which he didn’t keep due to the DSQ, but managing 58 laps on 2 sets of tyres in the first race with Pirelli when no other finisher could – still impressive).

      Whereas Hulkenberg has always hit a problem when on target to finish on the podium (usually, if not always of his own making) and should have scored a podium or 5 by this point, especially as he’s had cars that his teammate has taken to the podium (including Sergio). Whether the team would prefer points every race to someone who scores fewer points but claims an opportunistic podium roughly once every 14 months is the question. But on that basis I feel that Hulkenberg’s had his chance to impress and he’s proven that you can score points every race but be unimpressive about it. Sergio has had the results to justify his continued place in F1 over Hulkenberg.

  10. If they give Vettel the best car on the grid, if he feels prioritized inside the team, and comfortable racing against Stroll Jr., he will deliver.

    By cracking when he felt uncomfortable at Ferrari, Vettel is looking like dated goods. Stroll Sr. decided to pay to find out. The worst that can happen is he being shown the door in case Hamilton becomes available.

    I hope Perez finds his way into IndyCar instead of fighting for 10th place for three more years.

    1. Don’t see hamilton going to a midfield team before retiring.

  11. How can a driver impress when suddenly there are moves to remove him from his team.
    Mysteriously tested positive for a virus missed 2 races and having to start shopping to find a race seat.
    Perez has been used to acquire the team for a bargain price and now it’s time for him to go.
    Always be careful who you do business with.

    1. OOliver, given that the testing is undertaken by an independent organisation that is contracted via the FIA, the only way that the test could be “mysteriously positive” is if you are accusing both the FIA and the independent medical company of falsifying the results of the test – which is a rather serious accusation you are making there.

  12. Looks like a good place to be.

    Imagine next few years with budget cap when Mercedes unloads 200-300 employees to their B-team? Certainly looking better than Ferrari for next year.

  13. which this team last was in 1999, as Jordan

    They won in 2003 too.

    1. However the team that was Jordan ceased to be when Stroll bought the team, because he never bought their entry. Meaning sadly they weren’t around on the 30th August 2018 on the 20th anniversary of their first win

    2. Noticed this too.

  14. Don’t rush to your judgement just yet.
    I think he always had to push to the ultimate limits of the car as well as himself to succeed at Ferrari.

    The overall package at Mercedes means Hamilton just needs to drive the car around the tracks wirhin his comfort zones and that makes huge difference to a driver in overall performance.

  15. All the best to Seb, but I too think both he and AM will end up being disappointed from that marriage. As much as I like him I can’t help but think he’s only able to unleash his potential when circumstances are in his favor. Sure, he lost a lot of his motivation after Ferrari announced the split, but it seems to me he’s not really too comfortable in the midfield and I’m pretty sure that’s where he’ll be driving (at least in 2021).

    On the other hand I agree with a comment above that Perez hasn’t really impressed lately. Some people said Lance missed a great opp to win the race on Sunday and just cruised to 3rd, but I wonder if Checko would have done any better. Also Stroll is 4th in the championship mid season…

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      10th September 2020, 12:11

      Stroll is driving the 2nd best car and did not skip any races.

      1. True, I thought about that, but I don’t think this would have made a big difference. Imagine Perez was in the car that broke down before the race and not Hulk. I’ve no illusions about Stroll, but I think he’s doing what is expected of him.

  16. I think Seb will shine. He will easily have the measure of Stroll and will be the team’s top dog from day one.
    He might have returned to RB, but with Max there, there was very little chance of that happening. At Aston, he will lick his wounds and show Ferrari what they’ve lost.

    1. What they’ve lost? Even if he improves at another team, it’s not like ferrari didn’t give him enough chances, he was terrible, or worse even, got worse as the years went by, cause car considered he won 3 races in 2015, that was a good performance, 2016 wasn’t great, 2017 he performed better, not great but also not too many mistakes, since germany 2018 he got a lot worse and his 2018 season was worse than 2017 with a better car, 2019 even worse, 2020 if possible even worse.

      1. Oh so its all sebs fault? Ferrari isn’t guilty at all, yes? Mate you are blind. Seb did made mistakes but ferrari made the biggest mistakes ever made in F1. 2018 and 2019 they screwed seb over with pitstops. And now 2020 they screwed with sebs car… 70+ years ferrari my ass!

        1. No, that was all Vettel. 2018 he killed it with all his crashes. Ferrari made some minor mistakes. Like in Japan when they were late with the tyres. Yet Vettel then spun off three times while setting a lap. He could also have kept it on track for a change.

          Mercedes makes much bigger mistakes, but usually Hamilton is able to recover from those mistakes. If Ferrari makes even the tiniest mistake, Vettel makes it worse and then his fans blame Ferrari.

    2. I am not sure I follow the Ferrari ‘lost’ part. Seb could have won the C’ship with Ferrari and did not get the job done.

      1. No he couldn’t. This team is broken. And Ferrari are lucky they have enough money and they don’t get banned from F1. A 70+years broken team with a moron of a manager that screwed their drivers over with pitstops and unreliable carissues… Some holy team huh?

      2. No one can win champions with Ferrari the way they are now. 70+years of experience and all they do is screwing up with pitstops and making bad cars ever since 2016

  17. Stuff RP, the biggest risk of all will be Vettel’s.

    He’ll be joining an optimistic team on (surely) an enormous pay cut. If he doesn’t come out on top of Stroll then it’ll bring his talents into question even more than now. He could have a half decent car and be on the podium several times, maybe even take a win…it’s a huge personal risk for him though.

  18. Vettel Is been disappointing for years now and will continue to do so.

    1. You got it wrong. Ferrari is the dissapointment here. 70+years of experience and they can’t even make a good car. They just screw around with pitstops and cars all day long…

      1. Right, all those spins were due to bad pit stops. Running off the track in the lead of the race in the rain in Germany, was a bad pit stop And bad car. Falling off the road under pressure in Canada in the lead and coming back on the track unsafely was bad pit stops and bad car. Spinning, unforced, in Monza, coming back on the track unsafely and taking out Stroll was bad pit stops and bad car. Cutting across the track, sandwiching VER and taking out RAI in Singapore was due to a bad pit stop and bad car.

        Seems like the only screwing around in cars all day long is being done by VET himself.

        It’s gotten to the point where nearly every race this year, during Sky F1’s track analysis, they feature a video clip of VET spinning/crashing at some corner on the featured track.

        Yes, Ferrari have made errors, but VET is absolutely to blame for a large part of his own woes.

        1. And right, the puncture in UK 2017 was due to ‘driver mistakes’. Engine failures in Malaysia and Suzuka were ‘spins’. But winning Australia and Bahrain, last to 4th in Malaysia, winning in Hungary with a steering issue, and leading the championship until the summer break in an inferior car were probably also spins?
          Say what you will about ’18 and ’19, he threw it away after Germany 2018 and was never that great in 2019, but both those years he still had pace, even if not as much as before. He was at least in the top 4 drivers of the grid in terms of performance.
          However he absolutely drove his heart out in ’17(and also ’15) and was the best driver on the grid in those years, he challenged and almost beat Mercedes in a slower car.
          And nearly every driver on the grid has crashed or spun on a weekend, no one has a 100% clean record.

  19. I think yes SV will justify AM’s faith in him. I think in a way he already has just by being a 4-time WDC and bringing that experience to the team. I think it elevates AM and shows Lawrence Stroll is serious about making this a top 3 team. I expect as well that just as CL expressed his appreciation for all that he learned from SV, so will SV be great for Lance. I’m reminded of the saying ‘a change is as good as a rest’ and I think this change is going to be great for SV.

  20. The problem with Ferrari is that the fire talented people that do well in other teams.

  21. will racing point / aston martin copy the 2020 merc for 2021 ?.

  22. Mark in Florida
    11th September 2020, 0:30

    I think it’s wasted money to hire Vettle. He is a shadow of his former self. History has shown that he is fast if he’s out front in a dominant car. But a midfield car? He will lose his mind with impatience like usual. I’m sure that he will be excited at first to drive for AM but when things don’t turn out to suite him he will be back to complaining and rough driving his rivals. Stroll is making a mistake for the sake of headlines and publicity. If Vettle can’t consistently beat Lance there’s nowhere for him to hide from that.

  23. There’s gonna be a lot more anti-Stroll comments and “Vettel should’ve quit instead” comments next year. Every race weekend.

  24. I’m surprised Vettel bothered. And I’m surprised the team wanted him. Do you think that it’s all about coaching your Stroll?

    1. *young* Stroll.

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