Sebastian Vettel is well-known for his sharp sense of humour, so the timing of his Aston Martin announcement on the eve of Ferrari’s 1000th race will not have been misplaced on him. To place it in real-world phrases, it is a bit like saying your engagement at your ex’s party. Or what’s generally generally known as having the final snort.
Thursday’s Tuscan Grand Prix media day at Mugello, a circuit owned by Ferrari, was presupposed to be concerning the Italian group’s legacy within the sport. In regular circumstances, Vettel, as one in all two Ferrari drivers on the grid, would have been requested advert nauseam what Ferrari means to him. As a substitute, he has flipped the narrative so that it’s going to deal with his future fairly than Ferrari’s previous.
Regardless of his questionable kind over the previous few years, it was exhausting to not really feel sorry for Vettel when Ferrari introduced it was dumping him for 2021. The information got here earlier than a wheel had been turned in anger within the 2020 season and just some months after group principal Mattia Binotto had named Vettel as his first decide for 2021 at Ferrari’s automobile launch. By the point the F1 paddock reconvened after lockdown, it emerged that Ferrari had been in talks with Carlos Sainz for the reason that winter and that Vettel had never been offered a contract extension.
As soon as a brief interval of sympathy had handed, the following massive query was the place Vettel would find yourself in 2021. McLaren shortly dedicated to Daniel Ricciardo and Renault had its sights set on Fernando Alonso, who announced his return to F1 in early July. It did not take lengthy to hitch the dots and place Vettel at Racing Level, and as early because the second spherical of the season at Austria a contract supply was being talked about.
It is attainable that the tougher negotiations to interrupt Sergio Perez’s current contract with the group, which was presupposed to run till 2022, simply so occurred to be finalised forward of this weekend’s race at Mugello. Besides, the timing couldn’t have been sweeter for Vettel.
Is Vettel the suitable driver for Aston Martin?
It is clear why Aston Martin needs Vettel. A four-time world champion, who stays one in all motorsport’s greatest names, is a perfect candidate to construct the group round when it rebrands as Aston Martin subsequent yr.
The press launch saying Vettel’s arrival opened with the sub-head “An announcement of intent” and used 4 paragraphs to listing the German’s achievements within the sport. There’s little doubt that of the drivers obtainable to Aston Martin, Vettel was by far the most important identify.
However the group is getting greater than that. Vettel is a notoriously exhausting employee, who makes hand-written notes concerning the automobile’s conduct after each session. He has folders of these notes at his dwelling in Switzerland for reference, however they signify only a small slice of the 14 years of F1 expertise Aston Martin is shopping for by signing Vettel.
The massive query stays over his present kind. Arguably, Vettel had a automobile able to profitable the 2018 title, however let the season slip by his grasp because of a collection of errors. These on-track errors have solely multiplied since then and his present kind in opposition to Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc doesn’t learn effectively.
The person he’s changing, Perez, has persistently been probably the most undervalued drivers on the grid. It is true that Perez has zero race wins to Vettel’s 53, however his skill to extract probably the most from the vehicles at his disposal, particularly lately amongst midfield groups, is extra confirmed.
So which model of Vettel will Aston Martin get?
A transfer to a brand new group may reinvigorate the 33-year-old, who clearly nonetheless believes he has extra to offer. If the automobile fits him, and it is fairly apparent that this yr’s Ferrari doesn’t, there’s an opportunity we’d see one other glimpse of the four-time world champion we knew from the early 2010s. However should you strip away the titles and race victories and focus purely on present kind, Vettel isn’t a superior candidate over Perez.
The opposite possibility was to switch Lance Stroll. It is unlikely it was ever critically thought-about as Stroll is the son of the group’s lead shareholder, Lawrence, however of the three drivers he’s arguably the weakest. The counter argument, laying to at least one facet household ties, is that Stroll has improved on his principal weaknesses — qualifying and consistency in races — this season and, at 21 years previous, nonetheless has loads of scope for enchancment.
Ought to Vettel have retired?
It is a query solely he can reply, however so long as the willpower to race continues to be there, that is the suitable alternative. Had he F1, there would have been no coming again and the silverware from his 4 world titles would have been irrecoverably tarnished by his last few years with Ferrari.
What’s extra, as unusual as it might have appeared this time final yr, in leaving Ferrari and going to Racing Level, Vettel is definitely buying and selling up. This yr’s Ferrari must be coerced to get into the highest 10 in qualifying, whereas the Racing Level, with its wealthy Mercedes DNA, is a daily Q3 contender. With the identical chassis getting used subsequent yr by regulation, the good cash is on Vettel to beat his previous group as a rule in 2021.
It additionally will get Vettel out of a group that’s on a downward trajectory and right into a group that’s on the up. Ferrari is in want of figures accountable proper now and Vettel was changing into an more and more straightforward goal. However at Racing Level, each prime ten end nonetheless appears like a constructive, though the automobile is nice sufficient to recurrently nip on the podium locations. Strip away the historical past of the 2 groups, and there is not any doubt which one can be the extra fascinating place to work subsequent yr.
If you settle for that Mercedes and Purple Bull by no means critically thought-about Vettel for 2021, Aston Martin is the very best group he might have hoped to drive for. It is nonetheless a comparatively small outfit, however that comes with the bonus of much less inside politics and a better deal with racing. It is the right setting to have the final snort.