How Vettel’s disastrous comeback weekend left Aston Martin questioning their car

2022 Australian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel had little cause for cheer after a weekend to forget on his return to racing in Australia.

The Aston Martin driver missed the first two races of the season after contracting Covid-19. But having driven the team’s AMR22 in a shakedown and two pre-season tests, he didn’t have any concerns about getting back up to speed before the weekend began.

“We had a decent test, we had more tests than last year in a way,” he said before practice began on Friday. “It’s not too long ago, but for sure I missed the race rhythm. It’s obviously a disadvantage not to have had those two races and race with these cars but I think it will be okay. I’ve done this before, so should be okay.”

However he covered just 18 laps that day as he was sidelined by a power unit failure at the end of first practice which prevented him from participating in the second. He also fell foul of the stewards, who fined him for riding a moped onto the track to get back to the pits.

Matters took a turn for the worse on Saturday. Already less than happy with the balance of their car, the FIA’s 11th-hour decision to remove one of the four DRS zones, confirmed shortly before final practice, threw another spanner in the works.

After first practice Vettel didn’t set another time until qualifying
“The frustrating bit was that we were notified quite late about the whole difference,” said team principal Mike Krack. “There is a big implication of this because as soon as you remove the DRS zone there we were concerned that we would run into more oscillation issues.”

Aston Martin weren’t the only team affected in this way, said Krack. “You could see it also with other cars. I think the interesting bit was there was nobody running in the first 15 minutes of free practice three. So there was a lot of people who had a bit of work to do.”

However Vettel only managed a handful of out-laps before crashing. With team mate Lance Stroll also hitting the wall, Vettel’s participation in qualifying was in doubt. Ironically, he was only able to join in when Stroll’s repaired car was involved in a further crash in Q1 which triggered a lengthy stoppage and allowed Vettel’s mechanics to complete their rebuild. That left him 17th on the grid.

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The race at least offered him the opportunity to log a significant number of laps in his car. But a rough afternoon came to an end before half-distance.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Albert Park, 2022
Vettel ran ahead of eventual points-scorer Albon
Having qualified near the back he was one of few drivers to start the race on hard tyres. As Alexander Albon demonstrated, a long stint on that rubber could work. But as Carlos Sainz Jnr demonstrated, they were also tricky to warm up.

Vettel fell foul of them on lap nine, shortly after the first restart, ploughing the gravel at turn 11 and falling to last place. “Sorry for that,” he told his team on the radio.

“That was a big tailwind there Sebastian, bigger than the previous lap,” his race engineer Chris Cronin advised, “30kph tailwind.”

As he pushed to catch up with his team mate and the rest of the tail-enders, Vettel told his team the car felt “a bit on the nose through the high-speed, understeer medium-speed.”

By lap 22 drivers ahead were beginning to pit and emerge in Vettel’s mirrors. Albon, who went on to take a point, was just two seconds ahead. But Vettel wouldn’t make it to the chequered flag.

On lap 23 he ran fractionally wide at turn four, lost control of his car on the exit kerb and was spat onto the barrier at the inside. The utter dejection in his voice as he prepared to climb out of his car spoke volumes.

Vettel has been through tricky times in recent years. His final season at Ferrari was a dismal season marked by a growing number of unforced errors.

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His first season at Aston Martin last year began unpromisingly, but improved, eventually yielding a second-place finish in Baku plus another on-the-road in Hungary which he lost to a technical infringement. But the combination of an enforced absence due to Covid-19 plus a problematic car made trickier by the late DRS changes in Melbourne added up to a tough first weekend back.

Mike Krack, Aston Martin, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2022
Krack has full confidence in Vettel
Krack, who was Vettel’s race engineer when he arrived in F1 16 years ago, has faith in his driver, and believes the team needs to look at the equipment it gives him.

“We really take something away from it,” he said after the race. “I’m happy that Seb is fine, first of all, after all these incidents.

“But I think if someone like him, a four-time world champion, has these issues that he was having this weekend, and this is not down to not driving, because he has driven the car. This is something that we need to really look at what car we provide him, what feedback he gets from the car.

“Because, you will agree with me, that him being off so much as he has been this weekend is not normal and I do not think that this is related to having missed races. He has been a multiple winner in Melbourne, he knows where he is here. He has had some tests with the car, so I think it would be really easy to say he was not there for two weekends.

“A driver of that class, we really need to check what tool we are giving him.”

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2022 Australian Grand Prix

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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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20 comments on “How Vettel’s disastrous comeback weekend left Aston Martin questioning their car”

  1. Quite frankly, this Aston Martin is crap much like (but worse than) the last one, regardless of who is behind the wheel.

    I guess if you were to take away anything from this disastrous and crash-filled weekend it’s that there’s no point in trying to overdrive the 9th quickest car on the grid.

    Settling down and hoping for chaos worked for Alex Albon.

    1. You watch the car and it looks like the one they bodged from mercedes. Looks understeery and slow, drivers use the throttle to turn the car and they are caught out pushing too hard. Probably just low grip.
      Maybe weight is a major concern maybe merc not using the 2022 pu yet is what is holding them back. Seeing that this team managed to ruin a championship car then no doubt their first car is going to be bad.

      1. maybe merc not using the 2022 pu yet

        You’re saying that Merc is still giving it’s customer teams 2021 engines?

        1. someone or something
          12th April 2022, 18:20

          Yeah, that’s just crazy talk. There is no way to run an F1 ICE that was designed for E5 fuel, with E10 fuel without encountering severe trouble. You’d have to operate it with F2 levels of power, or experience car-stopping failures every few laps.

        2. RandomMallard
          12th April 2022, 19:46

          @mark-visser99 As well as the obvious problems mentioned by someone or something above, I actually believe this was one of the things the 2022 regulations actually outlaw. My understanding (albeit based on the first set released in 2019, so they may have changed, but I doubt it) is that engine suppliers have to offer the same engine specification to all customer teams, including bringing all upgrades to all the teams at the same time.

          1. This has been a rule for a long time now. So much so that Ferrari had to get a special rule implemented to supply year old engines to Toro Rosso in 2016.


        3. @mark-visser99 No. Mercedes is planning to introduce the version they have been working on until the deadline, as their 2nd unit of the season

          @Something something the pu probably would work regardless, f1 engines have been run on pump fuel before, it is an integral part of the rules. Anyway I was not suggesting this was the case.

          1. @peartree That makes more sense. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

          2. The ICE, MGU-H and turbo is already homologated for 2022 and beyond. The summer deadline is for updates to the energy store electronics, and MGU-K units.

          3. Yes Grat and the Merc PU is noticeably clipping at the moment.

  2. Looking at Vettel’s performance this weekend, I cant applaud Hulkenberg’s effort enough over the last 2 Grands Prix. Having been out of F1 over the last 2 years and having never raced before in Jeddah, he extracted maximum out of the car on both the weekends. Replacing Stroll with him would be the way forward to improve this year’s Aston Martin car.

  3. Vettel just like Kimi’s last seasons actually in passive retirement. The game is over for Vettel, he is just making some more money for active retirement.

    1. Spot on. Heard he earns 15 million euros per year.

      Can’t believe he is the same guy who won 9 races in a row.

      I never believed that driver form can go drastically up or down until I saw Seb

    2. I would expect someone in ‘active retirement’ to not try and overdrive the car to the point of binning it twice on a weekend.

    3. I can see SEB tapping out before the end of the season

  4. I’m wondering if the AM’s have excess play in their steering after watching Stroll weaving all over the track during the race unless of course he was drunk.

    1. I take it the suggestion is to turn in the screws on The Rack to get better performance.

  5. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    12th April 2022, 19:13

    I find it really uncomfortable and undignified watching Seb these days. He seemed to turn from a star to a journeyman post 2018. He’s never massively suited the hybrid era, he was clearly more comfortable in the easier to drive pre 2014 cars as he’s always been fairly clumsy but he had some great performances at Ferrari. He doesn’t seem like the type to turn up for the money but something doesn’t feel right.

  6. So to sum things up.
    There was a to slow Aston Martin in front and a to slow Aston Martin at the back.
    Lawrence is ruining the name AM faster then the speed of the cars.

  7. Blaming the car works out well for Aston Martin as it gives Stroll an excuse too.

Comments are closed.