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sebastian Vettel podium baku 2021

Vettel: It’s a big deal for the team

sebastian Vettel podium baku 2021

Sebastian Vettel needed a big result sooner rather than later and at the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix the Aston Martin he got just that with second place in an explosive race decided in a final three-lap sprint.

Up until today in Baku, Aston Martin had been largely anonymous (as they had been in all past five race weekends) but on Sunday something sparked in Baku to deliver them a bittersweet result; a historic one too.

For the race, with Vettel out of the top ten in qualifying and Lance Stroll at the rear of the grid, opting to run both cars as long as possible with the first tyres proved to be a strategy masterstroke by the team but also a double-edged sword.

For Stroll, it was costly as he ran a lap too long on his tyres which cried enough on lap 31, a left-rear blow-out, spearing the Aston Martin viciously into the wall. The driver was fine but the car was not.

Vettel, meanwhile, was running very strongly and took the lead on lap 14, as drivers ahead stopped for tyres, before making his stop four laps later and emerging seventh. He made a position when Stroll slammed the wall and continued to get stronger on fresher tyres as the race evolved.

For the final restart, with new rubber, the Seb of old had fully emerged and was up for it when Lewis Hamilton out-braked himself into Turn 1, thereafter all the German had to do was tuck behind the Red Bull of eventual winner Sergio Perez and keep ahead of the skirmishing pack behind him, which he did to claim Aston Martin’s first podium in F1.

It was a mighty turnaround for Vettel who must have received a good dollop of inspiration when overtaking Charles Leclerc for fifth on lap 35.

After the race, Vettel reported: “It’s a big deal for the team. I am over the moon and P2 means a great deal to all of us. We did not expect to be on the podium, but we made great progress through the weekend, and the car had strong race pace.

“[Qualifying] was challenging [due to the red flag], but I was relaxed and confident going into the race. The key was being able to start with a free choice of tyres in P11. It meant we could use a new set of softs to make up two places at the start and then run longer to overcut Yuki [Tsunoda].

“It gave us a platform for the second half of the race and put us in a position to take advantage. I felt good in the car, and combined with on-track events and strategy, we were able to get a really special result.”

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer said of Vettel’s resurgent performance: “Sebastian also drove extremely well, making up two places on lap one, running a long stint on soft tyres and thereby jumping [Yuki] Tsunoda during the pit stops, and holding seventh place at the halfway point.

“Then, when Lance was very sadly eliminated, Sebastian moved up to sixth. He then nailed the Safety Car restart, duly passing Charles for fifth, following that by a great move on Pierre to take fourth. When Max retired, that became third, then second when Lewis [Hamilton] overshot Turn 1 from the second standing start.

“A brilliant result for everyone in our team and the first-ever podium for Aston Martin in Formula 1 World Championship history. In summary, both Lance and Sebastian showed today that we have the race pace to compete at the very front of the midfield, or better, and that is what both of them will be aiming to do as the rest of the season unfolds,” added Szafnauer.

Stats show this was Seb’s 122nd, but his first podium since last year in Turkey; hopefully this is a turning point for the four-time F1 World Champion whose graph has pointed south for too long.

The result will reverse the direction of that graph and hopefully for the long-term as today showed how much the sport can do with Vettel in fine fettle because he is still one of the most exciting drivers on the grid when he brings on his A-game as he did in Baku today.