In signing Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin believes it has the driver it needs to lead the team to the front of the Formula 1 grid.

The capture of Vettel’s signature marks a huge coup and is a massive statement of intent for the Racing Point team when it rebrands into Aston Martin next year.

Aston Martin said signing Vettel was “a clear statement of the team’s ambition” to establish itself at the front.

We evaluate why the Silverstone outfit has put its faith in Vettel and ruthlessly dispense with Sergio Perez in the process…

Why Vettel is the “perfect driver” for Aston Martin

The decision to go after Vettel was a no-brainer for Aston Martin.

Vettel was a free agent after Ferrari opted against offering the German a renewed deal for 2021 and he had subsequently become the strongest and most attractive option on the table for any team looking for a new driver.

Although Vettel has suffered something of a reputation hit following three mistake-ridden campaigns at Ferrari, he remains a four-time world champion and winner of 53 grands prix, making him statistically at least, the fourth most successful F1 driver of all time.

In a competitive car, and with the right team support network around him under effective leadership, there is no doubting Vettel’s abilities behind the wheel of F1 machinery.

He is one of the most accomplished and respected names in the sport and will undoubtedly inject a huge boost of optimism and confidence into the Silverstone-based outfit ahead of its transition into a new era.

Aston Martin described Vettel’s experience and leadership qualities as making him “the perfect driver to help the team achieve its ambitions”

Otmar Szafnauer, current Racing Point CEO and team principal, said: “Everybody at Silverstone is hugely excited by this news.

“Sebastian is a proven champion and brings a winning mentality that matches our own ambitions for the future as Aston Martin F1 Team.

"On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, Sebastian is one of the best in the world, and I can’t think of a better driver to help take us into this new era. He will play a significant role in taking this team to the next level.”

In Vettel, Aston Martin now has the driver it is convinced can help it achieve its lofty ambitions which are already underpinned by strong foundations.

Aston Martin matches Vettel’s own ambitions

On the face of it, Vettel’s move to Aston Martin could be seen as something of a sideways step, given he will be joining F1’s midfield with no front-running options available to him.

But for Vettel, this is no swansong affair. It is the beginning of a journey to create a new legacy and rebuild his reputation with a legendary name in the car industry.

Vettel has been attracted to the Aston Martin project not only because of the famous name, but also due to the aspirations of the team’s owner, Canadian billionaire businessman Lawrence Stroll.

Stroll took over Aston Martin earlier this year and has grand-scale ambitions to turn around the British sports car company, beginning by returning the historic brand back to the F1 grid.

Vettel has clearly been sold by Stroll’s masterplan for Aston Martin and has faith in the direction of the project.

"I'm extremely proud to say I will become an Aston Martin driver in 2021,” said Vettel.

"It's a new adventure for me with a truly legendary car company. I have been impressed with the results the team has achieved this year and I believe the future looks even brighter.

"The energy and commitment of Lawrence [Stroll, the owner] to the sport is inspiring and I believe we can build something very special together.

"I still have so much love for Formula 1 and my only motivation is to race at the front of the grid. To do so with Aston Martin will be a huge privilege."

This is a team that has gained a reputation for punching above its weight and achieving as an underdog status, something Vettel can appreciate, having claimed what was at the time Toro Rosso’s only F1 victory back in 2008 at Monza

Amid a 2020 season that has been full of controversy, Racing Point is in the middle of a titanic battle over third place in the constructors’ championship despite being docked 15 points and fined €400,000 euros for being found guilty of illegally copying Mercedes’ 2019 brake duct design.

Its RP20 challenger – which closely resembles Mercedes’ title-winning W10 – has been furiously fast and competitive, and it is a car that Vettel will now find himself in for 2021, with teams carrying over their current chassis designs into next year to save costs.

This is before a major regulation overhaul to F1’s technical regulations come into force for 2022, something else that would have influenced Vettel when he agreed a multi-year contract at Aston Martin.

Aston Martin is looking to capitalise on the major rule changes that are being introduced with the aim of creating a more competitive and exciting playing field between F1’s 10 teams in a financially sustainable environment. 

The unluckiest loser caught in the middle

Exactly two weeks ago, Perez remained confident of a stay at Racing Point for 2021 and insisted he would not be leaving.

The Mexican had after all signed a contract extension last year that would run until 2022, so his rather laid-back stance appeared justified on the surface, at least.

Asked about his future plans ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, Perez said: “I feel that we, both parties, we want to carry on and we believe in each other and we believe in the project. So nothing really more to say.”

13 days later and Perez was announcing his departure from the team via social media, describing how the ending to his Racing Point story “hurts a bit”.

Both Ferrari and Racing Point’s repeated insistence that they had no intention to change up their driver line-ups for 2021 has highlighted how contracts mean little in F1.

There is no question about it, Perez did not deserve his forced farewell from the team.

The 30-year-old played a key role in preventing the team going out of business in the summer of 2018 by triggering the administration process which ultimately set off the chain of events that led to Stroll’s takeover of the then Force India outfit.

Perez has also delivered on the track, picking up five podiums for the Silverstone squad through its various guises since the start of the V6 hybrid era which began in 2014.

He has been one of the most consistent and impressive performers in the midfield for years, and despite Lance Stroll’s vast improvements this year, was the wrong driver to replace.

Ultimately though, Stroll Sr’s aspirations for Aston Martin were not going to come at the expense of a seat for his son.

This is not a new story. Stroll was transferred from Williams and into a Racing Point seat for 2019 to replace Esteban Ocon, who was left without a seat for the following year.

Similarly, Perez is now left scrambling for a drive for next season with little options available to him and no “plan B” in place.

Alfa Romeo are understood to be interested in bringing Perez back to the Hinwil team with which he made his F1 debut back in 2011.

Haas could provide Perez another possible landing seat, with boss Guenther Steiner recently admitting that all options are on the table for his team’s driver plans for next year.

The prospect of a 2021 F1 season without a driver of Perez’s calibre on the grid is a sad one and his absence would make the field that bit poorer.

 

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