Sebastian Vettel is convinced he can win another Formula One title with his new Aston Martin team. The four-times world champion has also delivered a cutting barb to Ferrari, his former team, by praising the work ethic at Aston Martin, which launched its car on Wednesday, marking the British manufacturer's return to F1 after a 61-year absence.
Vettel was told he would be dropped by Ferrari before last season began and went on to endure the worst season of his career. He struggled with the car and finished 13th. The German has signed with Aston Martin, formerly known as Force India and Racing Point, and has embraced the challenge ahead: succeeding with a smaller but decidedly ambitious outfit.
“The team is still growing and things are different here,” he said. “It is not about the fancy looks or the expensive, designer chairs in the office but more about the work done behind the scenes, and from what I have seen the people are very capable and very talented. It’s the first time in the last one or two years that they are getting the oxygen to breathe.”
Vettel won his four titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, and came close with Ferrari in 2017 and 2018 but was beaten by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. There was speculation the 33-year-old might retire, but he remains motivated and believes he has moved on from the travails of last season.
“It’s not a secret that at stages last year I was not at my happiest. I know it wasn’t to my standards but I am very much at peace with it,” he said. “This year I am very much looking forwards.
“I think I have another world championship in me. It has been in me before and it was a big relief winning the first one and knowing you can do it. Since then, I don’t see why it is not there any more. I am not too old and I still have a long time in me.”
The Aston Martin marque has enjoyed success in sports-car racing, and the team revealed their new challenger, the AMR21, in its traditional British racing green livery. Aston Martin raced in F1 in 1959 and 1960 with no success and are returning in the hands of the billionaire businessman Lawrence Stroll, whose son Lance drives for the team.
Stroll bought what was then Force India in 2018 after they went into administration and they were rebranded as Racing Point. He took over Aston Martin in January 2020 and has been instrumental in putting money into the team – the oxygen to which Vettel refers. Stroll believes Aston Martin can challenge for the championship and, at the launch, the team principal, Otmar Szafnauer, and the technical director, Andrew Green, said they could be doing so within three to five years.
They have punched well above their weight in recent years and, with a budget cap coming into force this season that is intended to bring the bigger teams into the range of the midfield, Stroll’s ambitions could well be realised. Indeed, Vettel believes the timescale for Aston Martin to become a champion team may even be shorter.
“Formula One is changing and maybe you don’t need those three to five years any more,” he said. “Maybe it will shrink and the hope is that everyone will be closer to the top and not just finish on the podium because the guys at the front retired or crashed.”
Vettel struggled with the rear instability of the Ferrari last year but is likely to be far more comfortable with the low-rake design philosophy of his Mercedes-influenced car that offers the stability he prefers. He also has the full-backing of Szafnauer, who is confident Vettel remains a potent force in F1.
“I’ve always said, and will continue to say so, at 33 years old you don’t forget how to drive a Formula One car fast,” said the team principal. “We will work hard to make sure the car is to his liking and the setup is like he wants it.”