There is no arguing that Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin were the biggest disappointment of 2021 Formula 1 preseason testing, as expectations were high after they ‘won’ the winter hype battle.
With the Racing Point covered over by the racing green of Aston Martin, with Sebastian Vettel joining Lance Stroll in the team, plus Mercedes power and close ties to their technology expectations were sky-high.
But by the time the dust at settled in Bahrain they were nowhere, woeful actually with only 314, over 100 less than Alpha Tauri’s 422, only Mercedes had worse mileage at the end of the three-day test.
Only Williams pay driver Roy Nissany circulated BIC slower than Vettel whose lap count was 117 compared to Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) with 237 laps to his credit.
The four-time F1 World Champion reported to Auto Motor und Sport: “We had planned more kilometres for our test program on all three test days. I’m definitely missing a total of 100 laps. We just have to live with that now.
Transmission issues on Saturday and a turbo boost problem did him no favours: “We don’t yet know exactly what caused the problem. We still have to analyze that.
“The components are in our car and mix with our own components. In the end, the fault is always a bit more on one side or the other, but that is not important. What is important is that it is fixed.”
After six years at Ferrari, no surprise there are differences that need adapting to, no less than the mighty Mercedes power unit that Vettel is sampling for the first time.
He explained: “The car has a different steering system. The pedals and the seat feel different. The car is built according to a different philosophy. It wants to be driven differently. We have a different engine.
“You have to get used to that. It’s everything only small things, but the sum of the details makes it all. I now expect a steep learning curve in the first races. I still have to understand how the car wants to be driven. I have to find out practically the differences between my past and my future.
“Many factors play a role here. It’s not that you lower a car with a high job and you have a Mercedes. Or that you raise a Mercedes and you have a Red Bull. The whole matter is a lot more complex.”
Despite the underwhelming start to the final chapter of Lawrence Stroll’s dream team, Vettel remains upbeat: “It’s a bit of bumpy start but the season is still long. I am sure that we can solve all the small problems and that we will be in a better position in two weeks.”
Vettel is himself going through a bad patch and sorely needed a decent car with Merc power to put behind him the memories of last year when he was arguably at his worst in the top flight, with a very bad Ferrari further hammering his reputation.
He continued: “I’ve been around for so long. The whole thing doesn’t bother you so much. Ten years ago, panic would probably be the order of the day. But that doesn’t help. Stay calm and give us time to do our work. After all, we have a few runs to analyze. It could be better, but it could have been worse.
“We still have to learn a lot about the car, as far as setup is concerned but you can’t do everything in just three days of testing. The others are in a similar position. Even if you got through without any problems, you can’t do everything in a day and a half.
“Learn about new cars and new tyres. It will take time to really get up to speed – with some more, with others less. We just haven’t done a lot of runs that can be compared with other cars. I haven’t followed much of the others but mainly focused on our car.
Vettel took heart from Mercedes’ own foibles over the three days: “What you can of course say is that Mercedes didn’t achieve the miracle distances it has done in previous years. But I’m sure they’re well-positioned for the first race.
“Red Bull is doing what they should as the challengers. I think either team will do it in the end,” predicted Vettel who lines up for his 258th Grand Prix start, for the first time in the green of Aston Martin at the Bahrain Grand Prix in a couple of weeks.
Not what we were hoping for but Seb is still remaining positive. 🤜🤛
— Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) March 14, 2021