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Formula 1

Our verdict on Vettel’s Aston Martin F1 move

by Matt Beer
7 min read

After months of rumour and ‘non-denial-denial’, Sebastian Vettel is officially on his way to what’s about to become the Aston Martin Formula 1 team.

Is he the right choice given his recent form? Are his critics too quick to forget his four-time world champion qualities? Is the right man being ejected to make way for him?

Our writers give their thoughts on those topics:

This gets Aston off to a flying start

– Mark Hughes

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel still loves this game. The frown has been readier than the smile in the last couple of years, but he is still in there applying himself hard.

He’s a proud man and he will not have wanted that career to go out with a whimper – and the Aston Martin gig has the attraction of potential.

A Mercedes-related car with an ambitious wealthy owner is possibly the material with which to do some giant-slaying. Furthermore, the prospect of a straightforward, simple racing team – like he used to enjoy at Red Bull – after the intrigues and mistrust that have clearly developed between him and Ferrari will surely have felt very appealing.

From Lawrence Stroll’s perspective it’s a fantastic coup with which to get the Aston Martin brand off to a flying start. From a team perspective, Vettel’s going to bring an energy that should get it buzzing.

He needs very specific things from a car to perform at his best. He will find more lap time than most if he gets those things but lose more than some if he doesn’t.

It’s been a while since we saw him dance a fast car to the edge – Singapore last year, probably – but at just 33 years old, that’s still in him surely.

The wrong driver is being ejected

– Edd Straw

Sergio Perez Lance Stroll

If you dig a little deeper than the points table, which shows Stroll well ahead of Perez, it’s clear that despite Stroll’s improved and more consistent performances this season he’s still not as strong as Perez.

In the six qualifying sessions both have contested. Perez leads the head-to-head 4-2. One of Stroll’s qualifying ‘wins’ was in the wet, where his performances have always been impressive, but he has only prevailed in dry conditions once. That was in Hungary, where Perez was unwell.

The race head-to-head looks better for Stroll, finishing ahead four times out of five when both have finishes, although at both Monza and Spa, Perez would have been ahead but for external factors.

The difference at Monza was stark because in the first stint Perez ran fourth and Stroll eighth. The combination of the safety car and the red flag catapulted Stroll into victory contention to the front and left Perez up against it even to score a point.

Unfortunately for Racing Point, Stroll turned that shot of victory into third place – a good result on paper, but really a chance missed.

Stroll has really only outperformed Perez in two races – Hungary and Spain. In the latter, Perez did finish ahead on the road prior to a penalty but Stroll lost track position to making one more stop so there should be no caveat against his finishing ahead there.

In real terms, eliminating external factors, Stroll has had the edge a third of the time both in qualifying and race conditions. On top of that, Perez was also superior last year and has a more compelling F1 CV even if you factor in Stroll’s youth and inexperience.

There’s still more to come from Stroll and he is a perfectly worthy and capable grand prix driver, but the improvement curve needs to become steeper to justify this move.

Makes no sense on current form

– Valentin Khorounzhiy

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Italian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Monza, Italy

Remember that adage that people often like to apply to F1 – “you’re only as good as your last race”? Well, that one’s gone straight out the window with this latest announcement.

Sebastian Vettel is a four-time world champion and an all-time F1 great and nobody’s taking that away from him. He’s also been let go by his current team, and his form relative to Charles Leclerc, compared to Carlos Sainz Jr’s form at McLaren, is currently proving Ferrari correct in that particular decision.

Take 2020 and 2021 in isolation and, as absurdly harsh as that sounds, Vettel will have ‘failed upwards’ – not unlike his 2015 move to Ferrari having been outperformed by Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.

Leclerc has Vettel covered this year and yet if Racing Point and Ferrari maintain their current pace levels into next year, it’s Vettel who will have the better car.

That’s not to say it’s some grave injustice against Leclerc, or that it’s impossible to make a case for a four-time world champion to land a good drive on the grid.

It’s just that Racing Point’s top-performing driver being released from a multi-year contract early, in order to make way for someone who’s currently being outperformed by their team-mate, just doesn’t make a ton of sense when you look at it purely in a sporting context.

The ‘old Vettel’ is still in there

– Scott Mitchell

Sebastian Vettel wins Singapore Grand Prix 2019

Putting aside the obvious doubts about Vettel’s wheel-to-wheel racecraft given the last two-and-a-half years, we shouldn’t forget this is a four-time world champion driver. And there have been signs within the decline at Ferrari that the champion-calibre driver is still in there.

Vettel did lead Charles Leclerc in the championship at the halfway point of last season before Leclerc benefited most from Ferrari’s hugely controversial upturn in form after the summer break.

His pole lap in Canada was one of those ‘well, Vettel’s just unbeatable’ kind of days. He was mega in traffic in Singapore after strategy shuffled him ahead of Leclerc on the road. He was ruthless at the start of the Russian GP when he got past Leclerc at the start by virtue of a tow and Leclerc holding up his end of a pre-race deal about the first lap – only for Vettel to defy the agreement by refusing to let Leclerc back ahead.

Small details from this season like overruling Ferrari on strategy in Hungary and Spain – the two places he has finished better than 10th this season – should also not be overlooked.

Maybe these moments were too few and far between but they couldn’t happen at all if Vettel has become a permanently sub-par world champion.

He has also been a driver who thrives with an arm around the shoulder and struggles when things go against him. Over the last two-and-a-half years Vettel has only encountered more obstacles – next year we’ll know how big a part Ferrari played in that.

Vettel has to prove he deserves this

– Glenn Freeman

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Race Day Silverstone, England

This feels like a crazy thing to say given one driver is a four-time world champion and the other is only an eight-time podium finisher, but Vettel needs to show over the rest of this season that he’s deserving of Perez’s seat.

That’s not to say his status as an F1 great is written off, but as Racing Point has parted ways with the stronger of its two current drivers, it doesn’t want to spend the rest of this season wondering if that decision was right. Vettel’s clearly not been happy at Ferrari since it decided not to keep him, but he can’t keep letting that drag him down.

A motivated Vettel is a great signing for Aston Martin. Hopefully he gets a new lease of life at Ferrari from knowing his future is resolved, and that he should get his hands on a competitive car with an upwardly mobile team next season.

He’ll need to hit the ground running next year, and the rest of 2020 needs to be a lead up to that given how short the off-season will be. There won’t be long to clear any funk in his head from the divorce with Ferrari. He’ll be expected to comfortably see off Lance Stroll and lead what will then be Aston Martin to new heights.

Perez was the ideal dependable midfield driver, capable of being the ultimate opportunist when a sniff of an upset result was on the cards during an era where the big teams left very few scraps. He’d have been the perfect team-mate to Vettel. His shoes won’t be easy to fill.

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