Will Vettel stick around to see out Aston Martin’s F1 masterplan?

Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 future beyond the end of the year is likely to be a hot topic throughout the upcoming season. 

Vettel’s existing contract is due to expire at the end of 2022 and it is uncertain how much longer the four-time world champion, who turns 35 in July, will have the appetite and desire to continue racing in F1. 

The Silverstone-based outfit is heading into its second year of a five-year masterplan conceived by billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll to challenge for, and win, world championships.

But is Vettel really prepared to hang around for potentially another three-to-four years to taste the fruits of Aston Martin’s labour?  

“I don’t know is the honest answer,” Vettel replied when asked if he can picture himself seeing out Aston Martin’s ambitious project. 

“This year is a new year in many ways and I think we will go step-by-step. I have no cut-offs in mind and not a number where the team needs to be or where we need to race.

“I think we will see where we are and obviously at some point you start looking forward a little bit more into the future. But I think we focus on the start of the season for now and then go from there.”

Vettel is no stranger to success in F1, having picked up four consecutive world championships with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013. The wins and podiums have dried out somewhat in recent years with Vettel enduring a noticeable performance slump after suffering back-to-back title defeats with Ferrari. 

There were signs of a rejuvenated Vettel in his first season at Aston Martin as he scored the rebranded squad’s first podium of its new era with a brilliant second place finish in Baku. 

That result provided one of the rare highs of a difficult 2021 in which Aston Martin was hampered by a change of aero rules, as well as a strategic decision not to develop its car in-season, on its way to slumping to seventh in the constructors’ championship. 

The team is bidding to take advantage of F1’s huge rules reset to get back on track this year, and like with fellow multiple world champion Fernando Alonso’s situation at Alpine, for Vettel, much will depend on how competitive Aston Martin’s AMR22 proves to be. 

“The thing is, I think I had a while now in the sport,” he said. “I had good years and not so good years, mostly good years, great years with a competitive car in a competitive team. 

“Now, there’s no doubt I’m in a very competitive team. The team spirit is great and the goal is clear. We want to progress and win. 

“So, ultimately, having had the past that I’ve had so far, I’m mostly interested in winning and that will determine what the future brings.” 

On top of several headline hires – including prizing Dan Fallows from Red Bull and appointing former BMW boss Mike Krack as team principal – Aston Martin is building a state-of-the-art factory expansion featuring a new wind tunnel and simulator, all due for completion in early 2023. 

Aston Martin is growing rapidly and Vettel’s expertise and wisdom is viewed within the team as an integral factor in guiding it to where it ultimately wants to be. Vettel acknowledged that 2022 will be the ‘true test’ of how good Aston Martin really is. 

“The truth is the team is growing,” Vettel explained. “Obviously, having a shuffle in management is always a bit of a hiccup or shake-up and it will take time to overcome.

“But hopefully we manage to pull together and despite growing in size, become leaner or more efficient in our processes. 

“I think this year will be a true test for us and we’ll see how good we are because as I said last year we couldn’t show anything because we didn’t focus on bringing any updates. 

“Whereas this year it’s all about this set of regulations, this generation of cars and we will be able to show what we can produce. And we should be measured based on that.”

Will it be enough to convince Vettel to stick around for a little while longer? Only time will tell.

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