Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

No alarm bells at Aston Martin over Vettel’s troubled debut for team

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Aston Martin have backed Sebastian Vettel to bounce back from his troubled first race weekend with the team in Bahrain.

The four-times world champion was eliminated in the first round of qualifying, then relegated to the back of the grid after collecting a penalty for a yellow flag infringement. He incurred another penalty in the race after colliding with Esteban Ocon, and finished a lowly 15th.

However the team’s CEO Otmar Szafnauer said there were promising signs from Vettel’s first outing for the team given how little running he’d been able to do in pre-season testing after joining them from Ferrari.

“The car he’s driving now is totally different than what he drove before [in terms of] car characteristics, powertrain characteristics, a lot of things,” said Szafnauer. “He only really felt happy with the car – getting to grips, to know it and make set-up changes that suit him – in qualifying, when he had the yellow flags.

“So it’s hard to know but it’s really early days. He didn’t do a lot of laps in winter testing, we only had three days of winter testing, he had to share those days with Lance [Stroll] and he seemed to have all the problems. So I’m still confident we’ll get Seb there.

“He started last and made his made his way up but, like I said, we struggled on the hard tyre, he went on the hard tyre pretty early, so we’ve got to understand that. I’ll have to talk to him, I think he’s getting there.”

Vettel joined the team following a bruising 2020 campaign alongside Charles Leclerc. Aston Martin technical director Andrew Green said last year Vettel had “lost his mojo” at Ferrari and they would help him rediscover his form. Szafnauer insisted it’s “way too early” to suggest that hasn’t happened.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Vettel’s lap times were similar to Stroll’s, said Szafnauer
“I think it’s very, very early to say that,” he said. “We only have one data point, one race.

“Yes, it wasn’t the best race. But if you look at the positives: He had to start last, he was running in the top 10 for a while, felt good in the car.”

Vettel’s lap times in the race compared well with those of his team mate, according to Szafnauer.

“I had to leave the debrief so I don’t know what his feedback is. But just from watching it from the pit wall, looking at his lap times, they were not that dissimilar to Lance who’s been driving here for a while and knows us well, knows the car well, and ended up finishing in a relatively decent position and at times was pretty competitive on the medium and soft, and so was Seb.

“So I’ve got to talk to him. It’s way too early to say that.”

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64 comments on “No alarm bells at Aston Martin over Vettel’s troubled debut for team”

  1. I desperately hope that Vettel has still got it, but I’m starting to feel nervous for him. He definitely needs a few clean races so that we can more fairly judge his level, but the error with Ocon was painful to watch.

    More worryingly for Aston Martin; if Stroll ends up being consistently their fastest driver then they must know that there is performance being left on the table. Stroll is an interesting case and I’ll admit to being a little biased against him, but I feel he has 3 or 4 fantastic days each year and seems fairly average for the rest of it. With Stroll as de facto Number 2 to Perez or Vettel, they know they have at least a competent driver who can pick up points and back up the team leader, but if he’s the fastest then the actual car performance is difficult to judge.

    They need Vettel to be beating Stroll regularly to feel confident that the results are representative of the performance of the car.

    1. I agree. It is hard to say something bad about Vettel’s potential, but since Ferrari failed to deliver a competitive car, he looks like a retired driver still in activity. Maybe that was why Leclerc perfomance attracted so much attention. The kid is hungry. Vettel got 4 title, probably is half way into being a billionaire and established a family. In fact, it is kind of surprising that he would still had the patience to try.

    2. They need Vettel to be beating Stroll regularly to feel confident that the results are representative of the performance of the car.

      I wonder how Stroll Sr can ‘spin’ it if Sroll Jr is constantly faster than the 4x WDC :P
      @ben-n

      But that’s too easy: I assume that as an owner he wants the best possible result for his team, and I can’t blame him for believing in his son (junior championships winner).

    3. Sorry, but I had this feeling way back before he even started driving for them. He is done. If he had a pace he would have shown on the first race, just like other guys (Norris, Alonso, Tsunoda, Ricciardo). He is not even close to junior Stroll.

      I still remember my comment about Mr. Green who critisized Perezs driving style. Now they are going to regret it. If Vettel doesn’t have any shares in AM then he will be out soon, because he is no value for any team. He just embarrased himself after his comments about Ocon after the crash.

      1. Ah, forgot to include Perez on the list, he kicked some balls by driving that RBR that good.

        1. You forgot Sainz too.

      2. Thinking before the crash i thought he needed some more miles (or km) but Vettel goes left to follow Ocon and complain that Ocon moves to the right (which he didn’t do)

        Getting childeren is normal the time you leave the highest platform of racing and Vettel is a clear case for that. It’s like Massa he was fast (untill his accident And his birth of his first son) came back but wasn’t as fast anymore and he became slower with time. Ofcourse there are more examples

    4. Agreed, and I suspect Stroll will be Aston’s fastest driver. I also think not only will there be time left on the table as a result of that, but that the car itself probably isn’t fantastic to begin with either. Hence my pessimistic prediction posted elsewhere last week (https://www.racefans.net/2021/03/26/norris-f1-doesnt-have-a-front-field-and-a-midfield-anymore/#comment-4601369).

      I saw nothing from race 1 to make me re-think my prediction.

    5. @ben-n I think any driver of that calibre has still got it. The question is, can he find it again? The last thing Vettel needed was the added pressure of another mistake. In a way, it is early days; but his (at least) last 2 seasons with Ferrari were atrocious. If he’s ever going to bounce back, he’s going to have to do it soon. I hope he does. He’s a great addition to the grid when he’s on form. And – can you believe it – he’s still only 33 years old!

    6. @ben-n

      Stroll is an interesting case and I’ll admit to being a little biased against him, but I feel he has 3 or 4 fantastic days each year and seems fairly average for the rest of it.

      I’d agree with your assessment. I would go further and say that Lance has always been the slower driver in the team as well. He was slower than Massa at Williams.. he was outqualified by Sirotkin at Williams.. he was then beaten soundly by Perez for 2 seasons in a row.

      So, for Vettel to be slower than Lance is a really big deal. I don’t see how Aston Martin would move forward as a team if their future is in the hands of Lance and a driver who can’t (or just about) match Lance.

  2. It is expected that they dont worry yet. That is because they initially also misjudged his skills and continue to do so. The wake up to reality will be harsh for Aston. But it is on themselves. They got star struck while they should have been looking at statistics, data and footage of Vettel. What has he ever shown besides cruising off into the distance from pole in a superior car for 4 seasons? He has failed against everybody but Webber.

    1. This.

      I think he brings some good knowledge and experience, but if that doesn’t translate to good solid performances, then yeah they have totally wasted a seat and money

      1. Or they all did know and hired him for the marketing value in a transitional year. With as plus side he will make Lance like a star, meaning more marketing value. Maybe this wasn’t about driving, but about sponsor money

    2. Pretty sure he outdid Raikkonen too. Still a valid point though.

      1. Yes, he did better than raikkonen as long as they were team mates at ferrari, and most likely even in 2019 he’d have outperformed him, but his 2020 performance was a disaster and would’ve seen him lose even to raikkonen who was over 40.

  3. My concern isn’t with the car, it’s with Vettel.

    It was the first weekend of the season and he’s already unnecessarily created two issues for himself: Not slowing on double yellows and then driving into the back of Ocon. They perfectly match the sort of mistakes he was making last year i.e. rookie errors.

    1. This is my concern as well. The issues with Seb at Ferrari were more about Seb’s head than the car. And with the two incidents over the weekend (the double yellows and punting Ocon) he is showing his head just isn’t where it needs to be to be competitive. I wish him luck. He seems like he is a smart guy and a likeable character off the track.

    2. @sonnycrockett to be fair, the marshals post only began showing the double waived yellows once he had already passed it, and the circumstances are such that it is quite likely other drivers would have made the same sort of mistake as well. The Ocon clash, though, was definitely easily avoidable.

  4. Of the Trookies (team-rookies) Vettel was quite disappointing, especially give the years of experience he has.
    Alonso seemed to have no problem beating Ocon.
    Sainz & Ricciardo came close to the longer serving driver.
    Tsunoda performed very solidly, but there weren’t enough Gasly laps to compare the two.
    Even Perez made strides to close the performance gap to Verstappen.

    And at Haas they were both new to the team and the circus (and Mazepin seemed to be new to racing as well).

    Vettel remained a few steps below Stroll throughout the weekend.
    Not sure for how long he can play the ‘trookie’ card.

    1. and Mazepin seemed to be new to racing as well

      hahahaha classic

  5. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    29th March 2021, 14:09

    Do you remember him being voted driver of the season here in 2015? And beating Kimi (who is somebody!)

    4 years in a row he beat Kimi. He also beat his first 3 team mates. It is falce that is is only Webber that failed against him.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      29th March 2021, 14:09

      In response to @Mayrton

      1. Well.. But Ricciardo, leclerc and now stroll.
        But let’s wait, it’s early days.
        The quali was bad luck, but Ocon rearending was just plain stupid.

      2. Thanks for that. Raikkonen is interesting. He shows what we could have expected from Vettel; when you’ve lost that final edge to become WDC, at least your experience brings us consistent performance at a very high (but not the highest) level. Raikkonen was already in that career mode when they were paired up, so I am inclined to disregard him but technically you are right. And to be completely clear: I like Seb, I think he’s one of the fastest over a single lap. I also think he has insufficient driving skills (at this level) when in traffic. #of wins from pole and # of wins not from pole says it all. He needs a track with nobody around.

        1. Yes, I think this move to a midfield car (concidentally 2020 ferrari was like it too) brings out the worst from him cause he’s a driver only able to drive at the front, the slightest amount of competition (2018) makes him spin.

  6. Seems like business as usual anyway.

  7. Humm, Perez was driving a car that he wasn’t familiar with…5th
    Ricciardo was driving a car that he wasn’t familiar with…7th
    Sainz was driving a car that he wasn’t familiar with…8th
    Tsunoda was driving a car that he wasn’t familiar with…9th
    At least Vettel is helping boosting Stroll’s confidence.

    1. Yeah I think Vettel’s job is (in a most likely inferior car) is to make Stroll better than he actually is

      1. As much as I think it’s a ridiculous suggestion that they hired Vettel to make Stroll look better, I can’t honestly think of any genuinely sensible reasons for replacing Perez with him.

        The only thing I can think of that seems less ridiculous is the idea that having an ex-Champion somehow helps them sell more Aston Martins but I’m doubtful it would make any difference – you don’t go to buy a Ferrari and then think “hmmm.. neither of their F1 drivers have won a championship. I’ll get an Aston instead.”

        1. @petebaldwin

          I can’t honestly think of any genuinely sensible reasons for replacing Perez with him.

          Perez has never been more than a midfielder though and not even one of the best in that midfield. At least Vettel did win championships at some point.

          1. Yes, but looking at recent performance it was obvious perez would perform better than him.

    2. Now we see how good was Hulkenberg last year.

      Im sure the most people who work at Racing Point / Aston Martin would have rather Hulk than Seb at the team.

      Reply moderated
  8. Of course, not yet. Too early to start being worried for the whole season.

    1. It’s too early for sure.. but the initial signs aren’t promising either.

      Personally, I think he’ll get more comfortable with the car and should perform close to the car’s potential. Although, Vettel doesn’t strike me as a versatile talent, like Alonso, who can just step in the car and he’s on it. Vettel also doesn’t seem to work around issues with the car/handling as well, a bit like Jenson Button was, where there were miserable results that were way worse than what the car was capable of when the car wasn’t to the driver’s liking.

      The way I see it, there’s a very narrow window to get the most out of Vettel… and Aston just doesn’t seem like the place for a driver who can only perform in a dominant car, tailor made to suit one driver’s driving style.

  9. Vettel needs to quit being the angry man he has become…

  10. Vettel in the last few year’s reminds me (sadly) of Schumacher’s Mercedes career. Flashes of the old master but silly errors. When I saw the tangle yesterday I got flashbacks of Barcelona 2012 (running into the back of Bruno Senna) and Singapore 2012 (running into Vergne).

    I really hope Vettel can turn it around.

    1. As a schumacher fan, I can’t agree with this, I admit I was disappointed at first, but then when I learnt more about the extent of performance loss with age, and there’s mathematical models for this too like f1 metrics, I found out schumacher was performing exactly as expected, when taking into account the several tenths one would lose at that age compared to peak, which is 35 years old or less. Vettel doesn’t have this excuse, he’s just subpar at his peak, and wasn’t even out of the sport or injured.

      1. And I think a big weakness for vettel is being very bad at wheel to wheel battles, and he has to deal with a lot more of them now (and last year) since he’s in the midfield.

        1. I wouldn’t say he is bad at wheel to wheel battles (look at his perfomance at Turkey last year or last sunday fight with ALO-SAI), but he is too dependent on a stable rear (his constant spins and his crash with OCO for example). If he is still around next year, the ground effect should play to his talents quite well. But yeah, he should’ve learnt more tricks for a 4 world champion.

  11. Aston Martin knew his driver profile before they hired him. Yes, it’s too early to ring the alarm bells, but I don’t see what difference it would make at this stage anyway. After 259 grands prix, that’s just the driver Sebastian Vettel is now. I was surprised he didn’t walk away last year as he didn’t seem to be enjoying it, but if he gets beaten by Stroll, I don’t see how it can be anything other than an ignominious exit.

  12. Why would there be alarm bells? Seb’s been struggling for a while and he’s never been spectacular when he’s had a slower car and has had to fight others on track. He had a bad race in Bahrain and he’ll improve as he gets used to the car. He’ll regularly have scrapes though whilst battling in the midfield and won’t consistently score as many points as Perez did. I suppose the plus side is that it’ll make Stroll look better in comparison and if he beats him over a season, they can say Stroll beat an ex-Champion.

  13. Vettel is a broken man, a mental wreck. He surely still knows how to drive. But the moment he is in a competitive environment he crumbles under his own pressure. Unable to silence the voices of doubt in his head, unable to face his inner demons or to reflect on his actions. Instead he hides in a sanctuary of self-denial.

    1. easy there Freud…lol

  14. Sebastian Vettel in his first race for Aston Martin:
    1) Lost to his team mate in qualification. Check
    2) Got a penalty for not slowing down under yellows. Check
    3) Crashed into a rival car and spun. Check
    4) Got some more penalty points. Check

    I think these facts tell a lot about Vettel – he should be fired. Alonso was two years out, came back, had a few fights, never put a foot wrong. Tsunoda had 0 experience in F1 race, had fights, never put a foot wrong. And then there’s a 4-time, washed out, slow error-prone champion.

    If Aston Martin guys have at least some self-respect, they should put Hulk into the car.

    1. Yes, very solid and correct assessment. I also was worried about Tsunoda and Alonso, but they made no errors and had a fine race. Sebastian had a complete disaster. One more disaster like this and he should retire for his own sake. I don’t want to see him hurt himself or other drivers.

  15. He was the beating heart of Ferrari for four seasons and drove brilliantly in badly engineered cars. There is no question he should have been awarded with a new contract on that basis alone. Forget about Leclerc who is overrated anyway. Vettel should be driving for Mercedes and I think this could well happen when Hamilton leaves. Seb is just experiencing a mid-career slump like many professional sportspeople do.

    Reply moderated
  16. They are going to miss Checo so so bad.

  17. Vettel’s performance was disappointing, in every way, but the worst thing about Vettel was saying, in front of everyone and live, that Ocon had changed direction to justify the blow he gave him, it was truly pathetic.

    I’m sorry for Vettel, but more sorry for AML fans, they will miss Checo.

    1. I’m not absolving Vettel of anything, he had a shocker and he’s prone to immediate blame shifting on comms. Ocon clearly didn’t change line but Vettel also expected him to turn in a lot earlier ie. Vettel was aiming for the very outside of the track and was surprised to find it still occupied (with no aero traction) – his post race explanation made marginally more sense so perhaps he was referring to the way they’d been successively negotiating that corner in the preceding laps .

  18. Vettel has become a pale shadow. I remember cheering for him from 2015-2018 when it seemed like he will end the Merc dominance in the red colors.

    But now, I feel no sympathy for him. Especially after his antics on the Netflix episode on Ferrari. Being happy about Ferrari’s form, wearing the mask in a way that the Ferrari logo is upside down, announcing his move on the eve of Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix and acting as if it is simply because Checo announced his departure.

    He is just trying to be clever off the track while being a laughing stock on it.

    1. Yeah, you are really stretching here. “Drive to Survive” is heavily edited and sensationalized to insert their own narrative and create drama where there is none.

  19. Well, alarms are going off for me..

    Seems exactly like last year. Glimpses of excellence, messy qualy, brilliant in the race, right until he crashes or spins.

    To be honest Aston is relatievly slower than last year. Mercedes and Aston both fell in thw rankings by a similar amount.

  20. There shouldn’t be any alarm bells at Aston…. Vettel has been slow and cocking things up fairly consistently for a few years now.

  21. Are Sazfnauer and Stroll already missing Perez and his 25 million? I guess they brought it upon themselves. If Vettel has nothing to offer but being a former 4 WDC, there will be bells sooner rather than later.

  22. This season we are having a very tough competition

    Between Mazepin and Vettel for worst F1 driver ever, I mean

    1. Vettel is beter the Mazespin that i will give Vettel still.

      1. Yes, me too, as a really big vettel criticizer.

  23. If such a form continues, Vettel will be a massive drain on Aston’s finances and subsequently, its performance and team’s viability.

    Not sure what exit clauses are available to Aston. But that is one area where Seb has still not lost his mojo. His Red Bull contract had smart exit clauses. At Ferrari as well, even though there was a litany of errors since mid-2018, Vettel ended up seeing his contract till the end of 2020. He even got a lucrative Aston Martin contract (15 million dollars, if I remember correctly) while on his 2020 form.

  24. Stroll is an idiot to have let perez go. I dont see the value in a driver even if he is a 4 time champion if he is performing way below par. Its negative publicity. But lets wait and see if Vettel does crawl out of the hole he is in ever since he was fired by ferrari.

    Reply moderated
  25. Stroll will beat him constantly throughout the season.

    Vettel had the opportunity to stop with some decency after have been beaten by Riccardo and Leclerc. Now he will be beaten a third time, and the label “it was due to a strong car he got his wdc’s” will always follow him.

    1. Yes, and let’s just say being beaten by top drivers like leclerc or ricciardo is a thing (doesn’t make vettel a top driver already imo), but being beaten by an average driver is horrible!

  26. Vettel is a broken man. This is his last season in F1

  27. Is Vetter the Bale of F1? Being there for the big contract money but besides some moments of brilliance being a shadow of his former self? Discuss.

  28. It seems to me that everything that could’ve gone wrong so far, has for Vettel. I’m a bit biased since he is my favorite driver, but to be fair this is a new car and new team for him. He has also had limited time with the team over the winter, limited testing, and a mixture of poor judgement, racing, and luck. I think so far, most have been a bit too harsh on him. He has made plenty of mistakes, but he isn’t recovering from a bad two years at Ferrari in one race. This race was honestly not that bad minus the kind of unnecessary grid penalty for the Mazepin thing and also the Ocon thing (karma for Brazil 2018??). He had a pretty bad strategy and relatively uncompetitive car this weekend. The car doesn’t seem to have too much pace and that is another thing I hope AM turns around. I really hope their livery isn’t the best thing about them. This is the first race of the season and I think we will know where he really is within the next couple of races. Until then, I hope he really picks up the pace.

    Reply moderated

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