Otmar Szafnauer talks about the important of Sebastian Vettel for the growth of Aston Martin, as he adds on what can they achieve in F1 2021.
After six mix-fortuned seasons at Ferrari, Vettel is trying to restart his career at Aston Martin. The British brand is back in Formula 1 after 61 years from their last participation in the championship, having taken over Racing Point.
Racing Point had a brilliant 2020 season, shadowed by the controversies of their breach of sporting regulations, as the team used Mercedes’ listed parts. The Racing Point RP20 was also very similar to the 2019 championship winner Mercedes AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+, and media nicknamed it “Pink Mercedes”.
However, they have not started 2021 with the same impact they had in 2020. Lance Stroll, son of team owner Lawrence Stroll, scored three point-position finishes in the first six races, while Vettel has two points finishes – one of which being a podium in Baku.
As Monaco and Baku, which present a great challenge to the drivers, it has led to questions on if Vettel is finally up to speed with the car, and if his shine of the olden day is back. Team boss Szafnauer sees progress, but adds there’s still more to adjust.
“Seb’s getting more comfortable,” said Szafnauer. “In Monaco [and Baku], if you’re not comfortable in the car then it’s hard to extract all the performance out of it. He did feel more comfortable in the car in Monaco and did a good job, both in the race and in qualifying. Is he 100 per cent? I don’t think he’s quite there yet – but very close.”
Vettel’s potential is big. The German is a four-time F1 World Champion, having dominated the championship between 2010 and 2013 with Red Bull. His wealth of experience is also very important, having worked in two world championship team, with two different philosophies.
And this is what can be useful to the new Aston Martin team in their growth to the top of the standings. Something that can be useful for Lawrence’s team, and for Stroll’s growth as driver. “There’s a good dynamic between Lance and Sebastian,” said Szafnauer. “Sebastian does have more experience and the way we go about debriefs now has changed a bit.
“Sebastian has expanded the way we do things, not just Lance but the entire team have embraced that.” Despite the slow start, Szafnauer is optimistic of the chances of his team to close the gap, and match Ferrari and McLaren’s performances.
His optimism is supported by the imminent rules reset, that will bring different cars for the 2022 season, and by the allure brought by the Aston Martin re-branding. “There is a bigger gap to the teams in front than to the team’s behind and we have to do a good job for the rest of the season, bring some more upgrades, understand the car better, get the drivers even more comfortable and fight as hard as we can to finish as high as possible in the midfield,” said Szafnauer.
“It won’t be easy, even for fifth, but we will do the best we can. We’ve added significantly the amount of people we have since we were Force India. The new factory is on track, we have started building already, and it’s a big, big programme to recruit even further.
“We are at about 535 people now and we will get to about the region of 800 or whatever the right size is under the cost cap and we are strategically working on that now and trying to recruit likeminded individuals that want to come work for Aston Martin Racing and go racing at the highest level. The recruitment process is going well,” summed up Szafnauer.
Despite the podium finish for Aston Martin in Baku, they dropped to sixth behind AlphaTauri, who also had a podium. The difference is two points between the two, with Alpine in seventh with 25. At the front, both Ferrari and McLaren are too far ahead.
Here’s Sebastian Vettel on red flag re-start
Here’s Sebastian Vettel on P2 and race fights
The story was written by Lorenzo Liegi