Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel is feeling optimistic about his new Formula 1 career with the team that morphed from Racing Point as he turns the page on a miserable last season with Ferrari.
Things went from bad to awful for the four-time F1 champion in 2020; he had just one podium finish and ended 10 of 17 races outside the top ten in 2021 amid a tense atmosphere worsened by the fact Ferrari did not offer him a new contract.
“The whole year was a challenge. I’m obviously not happy with how last year went in terms of performance, in terms of my performance.
“There are things that didn’t go well and things I would have liked to go differently. It’s not a secret that at stages I wasn’t at my happiest,” admitted Vettel.
Last year was a huge fall from grace for him, whose confidence was already shaken after he lost the 2017 and 2018 F1 titles to Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, despite leading both championships at the halfway stage.
A driver who still shares the F1 record with Michael Schumacher for most wins in a season – 13 with Red Bull in 2013 – and has 53 wins among his 121 podiums found himself outclassed by his junior teammate Charles Leclerc in 2019 and 2020.
When Leclerc was given a lucrative new contract through 2024 – and Vettel wasn’t even offered one -it became clear who was considered the number one in the team. The frown lines grew deeper on Vettel’s face as he finished the last three races of 2020 in 13th, 12th and 14th.
He recalled: “It hadn’t been to my standards. I’ve never really cared what people think or say, or write. That’s why it’s important I’m at peace with myself; I’ve very, very high expectations of myself.”
The former Red Bull driver even courted his old team and also considered sabbatical even retiring but a move to Aston Martin has rekindled the 33-year-old German driver’s enthusiasm, “I’m not too old, there are older drivers returning to the grid.
He is of course referring to the likes of Kimi Raikkonen (41), Fernando Alonso (39) and Lewis Hamilton (35). “I don’t think it’s an age thing, I think it’s more a question of if you have the team and the car around you.”
The Aston Martin team runs on Mercedes engines and is owned by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, whose son Lance Stroll is the team’s other driver. The ambitious plan is to make the tam into a title contender within three to five years.
Vettel hinted that the atmosphere at Aston Martin is less polemic than it was at powerhouse Ferrari. The Italian manufacturer with its bright red car remains the most iconic name in F1 history, but have not won a drivers’ title since Raikkonen in 2007 and its last constructors’ title was in 2008.
Vettel said of Aston Martin: “It’s obviously very small if you compare it to Ferrari at first. Things are a bit different, but it’s not about the fancy looks or the fancy expensive designer chairs in the office, it’s more about the work that is done behind the scenes.”
The next chapter of Vettel’s stellar F1 career starts on Sunday at the Bahrain Grand Prix, this time in the British racing Green of this new and exciting project.