Driver Predictions: Why a re-ignited Vettel can push Aston Martin to the top
In 2021, Racing Point came with a new name, new colour, and a new driver in 4-time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, to partner Lance Stroll, in an attempt to build on their 2020 success – including their victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix. Lawrence Stroll’s ownership of the team provides his son, lance, a seat in the team. This undoubtedly means he will be assured a place in the sport until he wishes to move on and so will be on the grid next season unless there is a remarkable turnaround of events. However, potentially for the first time in his career, Stroll’s performances have justified his inclusion in the sport, with his Pole in Turkey and podiums in Monza and Sakhir, he is still a crucial asset for Aston Martin moving forwards.
Written by Danny Jones, edited by Janvi Unni
Lance Stroll achieving Pole Position at Turkey in 2020
Sebastian Vettel’s arrival at Aston Martin made a big statement for him and the team. The removal of star driver Sergio Perez proved this, with the team believing Vettel can help build their long-term project and help with ambassadorial roles within the team. Vettel has proven his talent in the sport, with his 4 dominant championships between 2010 and 2013, and the multiple records he broke along the way. However, during his final seasons with Ferrari, he became more prone to making silly mistakes, and errors started to become a regular occurrence. A constant array of spins and impatience behind other drivers caused several incidents.
Sebastian Vettel spinning out at COTA in 2018
However, he has proved he has still got it in him, after a superb drive at the Turkish Grand Prix, where he climbed 8 places on the opening lap and claimed a very unexpected podium, benefiting from a mistake from teammate Charles Leclerc. And despite disappointing performances in the 1st 4 rounds of 2021, Vettel has already had 2 more incredible drives in 2021. He managed an excellent 5th in Monaco, after overcutting Lewis Hamilton and Pierre Gasly, and then backed up that performance with a 2nd in Baku, taking advantage of other’s misfortune, despite a disappointing 11th in qualifying. Vettel does have a contract for 2022, and doubts were starting to creep in if he would carry on. But, the performances in Monaco and Baku have laid rest to these rumours, especially if he can keep up his current form until the end of the season.
Sebastian Vettel celebrating a second place at Baku in 2021
If a scenario happens where either driver is not with the team on year’s-end, waiting in the wings could be Aston Martin’s new reserve driver, and newly crowned ‘super-sub,’ Nico Hulkenberg. The German proved his talent in 2020, despite not having a full-time drive. An engine failure caused him to not make the start in the British Grand Prix, however, a superb 3rd in Qualifying, and 7th in the race in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, meant that Hulkenberg was a real contender in the driver market for 2021. An unlikely last-minute call-up at the Eifel Grand Prix proved his skills further. After hopping into the car just before qualifying, Hulkenberg managed a brilliant P8, despite qualifying last, and achieved driver of the day with it. Despite not getting a 2021 seat, Nico Hulkenberg’s ‘super-sub’ performances did not go unrecognised, as he signed reserve duties with both Mercedes and Aston Martin, and so potentially could have another ‘super-sub’ appearance in 2021, if Vettel or Stroll are unavailable for any reason.
Nico Hulkenberg celebrating P3 in qualifying at the 2020 British GP
If Vettel can keep up his excellent form, it is almost a certainty that he and Stroll will line up for Aston Martin in 2022. The team have great confidence in Vettel, and according to team principal Otmar Szafnauer, Aston Martin have changed their approach with the German on board. If Vettel continues his success, he is almost the perfect man to lead Aston Martin to the top, due to his evident speed and experience, and could help guide the team with the new 2022 regulations and give a different perspective to the Silverstone-based team that could potentially put them in the running for 2022.
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