Szafnauer says it’s ‘too early’ to judge Vettel performance – but Aston Martin chief ‘confident’ he’ll get on top of issues
It’s been something of a nightmare start to Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin career, with the German recording the fewest laps of any race driver at pre-season testing – while his first race weekend in Bahrain was blighted by a number of errors. But despite that, Vettel’s new boss Otmar Szafnauer was confident it would all come good eventually for the four-time champion this season.
Having completed just 117 laps at Bahrain pre-season testing – the lowest of anyone bar Williams test driver Roy Nissany – the Bahrain Grand Prix saw Vettel fail to get on terms with the Aston Martin AMR21, the German never troubling the top 10 throughout practice.
In qualifying, meanwhile, Vettel received a five-place grid penalty for a yellow flag infringement, dropping him from his P18 grid slot to last place, and leaving him to come home P15 at the flag – Vettel having received an additional 10-second penalty for colliding with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
But Team Principal Szafnauer was trying to look on the bright side regarding Vettel’s performance, after a challenging debut for the Aston Martin team, who scored just one point thanks to Lance Stroll’s P10.
“If you look at the positives, [Sebastian] had to start last and he was running in the top 10 for a while,” said Szafnauer.
“I had to leave the debrief so I don’t know what his feedback was, but watching from the pit wall, looking at his lap times, [they] were not too dissimilar to Lance, who’s been driving here a while and knows us well, knows the car well and ended up finishing in a pretty decent position – and at times was competitive on the mediums and the soft, as was Seb. So I’ve got to talk to him.”
Vettel’s struggles at Ferrari in 2020 are well publicised, the German finishing 13th in last year’s drivers’ standings, having scored 33 points to team mate Charles Leclerc’s 98. But with Vettel having failed to make it out of Q1 in his first race for Aston Martin – something which only happened to him once last year with Ferrari – Szafnauer was forced to respond to questions that Vettel’s performances didn’t appear to have been rehabilitated since joining Aston Martin, as Szafnauer had previously suggested they would be.
“It’s way too early to say that,” replied Szafnauer. “It’s really early days. You know, he didn’t do a lot of laps in winter testing; we only had three days of winter testing and he had to share those days with Lance and he seemed to have all the problems.
“The car he’s driving now is totally different to the one he drove before,” Szafnauer added, “from car characteristics, powertrain, a lot of things. He only really felt happy with the car, getting to grips with knowing it and making set-up changes that suit him, in qualifying when he had the yellow flags.
“So I’m still confident we’ll get Seb there.”