RACE DEBRIEF

    Azerbaijan Grand Prix Driver of The Day Sebastian Vettel said his first podium for Aston Martin - and the team's first ever F1 podium - felt all the sweeter because he'd had no expectations of such a strong result starting from 11th on the grid.

    Aston Martin's first foray into Formula 1 lasted just six Grands Prix from 1959-60 and yielded a best result of sixth. Six races into their comeback as a marque in 2021, Vettel put them on the rostrum, with a stunning drive from P11 to P2.

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    And the elated driver said: "I'm over the moon. I think for the team's it's great – a podium – we didn't expect that when we came here.

    "On Friday, even though we were nowhere, it felt good, I was quite relaxed and yesterday [in qualifying] we didn't quite get it, but today – even sweeter."

    2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Vettel claims first podium with Aston Martin in Baku

    Vettel was clearly frustrated when he qualified 11th on Saturday, but that left him with a free choice of tyres today. He nursed those brand-new soft compounds until Lap 18, briefly leading the race as he was the last driver bar team mate Lance Stroll to stop for tyres.

    Up to sixth before the first Safety Car restart – for Stroll's stricken car – Vettel gained two places at the expense of Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly. He capitalised on Max Verstappen's late retirement to move to third, gaining another place in the final Safety Car restart when Lewis Hamilton went off as he rallied to P2 on new tyres.

    READ MORE: ‘Sometimes you can hate this sport’ – Verstappen frustrated to miss out on 'easy win' and chance to extend points lead

    He recalled: "When the Safety Car came, I was obviously in the mix in P6 and had tyres that were 10 laps fresher than anyone else’s.

    "Probably easier to warm them up, and it helped me to jump Charles and also Pierre. So it was quite hairy into Turn 3 and Charles was braver than I expected, because I initially braked later than him but he opened the brakes and I thought he for sure is going to hit the wall, so I prepared to get to the inside. He [Leclerc] made it, I don’t know how, but he did.

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    Stroll retired from the race on Lap 31 after a high-speed crash, with a suspected tyre issue

    "Then with the red flag, obviously it’s a shame with Max [Verstappen] to lose the lead like that," continued Vettel.

    "For us we found ourselves in a good spot in the podium ranks and just two laps to go, you just try to keep it together. I was again aggressive at the start with two laps to go and had nowhere to go and obviously saw that Lewis misjudged Turn 1 and tried to stay a bit closer with Sergio, maybe to do something after the first lap, but I was too far away.

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    "Obviously very happy for P2 and the team. I think it’s great for us; we had a very rough start to the season and we expected quite a bit more after such a strong year the team had last year. I can’t wait to get back and have a couple of drinks with the guys," he concluded.

    After failing to score in the first four races of this season, Vettel has managed P5 from P8 in Monaco and P2 from P11 in Azerbaijan. Aston Martin leave Azerbaijan two points behind AlphaTauri in the standings, with France on the horizon.