Aston Martin strategist recalls 'daunting' time with Vettel


Former Aston Martin strategy engineer Bernadette “Bernie” Collins has been talking to official F1 podcast Beyond The Grid about her time working at the team with Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel arrived at the squad having been publicly critical of the strategy calls made by his former team Ferrari, notably declaring that their team decisions at Silverstone in 2019 “didn’t make any sense”.

It meant that when Vettel arrived at Aston in 2021, Collin’s role was sure to be under particular scrutiny and the need to establish an early bond of trust beteen herself and the four-time world champion was paramount.

“It did feel a bit of a spotlight on strategy in that moment, just because you wanted to get off on the right foot,” she said. “It was very important to start off on the right foot, and we did we did that pretty successfully, I think.

“When he first arrives, he’s coming to the team, he’s going to be there for testing,” she explained. “Obviously as a strategist, I didn’t go to testing so you don’t immediately start to build a relationship.

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“You’re going through races you’ve done in the past to start him understanding how we make calls on things, why we make the calls, how we build the tyre model, how we form our strategy, how we interact with the media, all these things.

Collins said that throughout his time with the team, Vettel was “very on top of what’s going on, really wanted to understand the plans,” adding: “Even in the strategy meetings he would still ask a lot of questions.

“He was definitely a lot kinder in person than what I expected,” added Collins, who now working as a strategy analyst for Sky Sports and F1 TV. “Maybe that was just expectation managed, but the relationship was really great.”

Bernadette Collins (GBR) Aston Martin F1 Team Performance and Strategy Engineer.
17.07.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Qualifying Day.
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The close working partnership gave Collins a unique up-close view of what it was about Vettel that had made him such a successful driver over the years.

“He had very good understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and why it might or might not work, and he had a very good memory for what had happened in the past,” she said.

“He would often have gone through some previous races, and he’d say, ‘oh, what about like in, I don’t know, like 2010?’” she recalled. “I was like, ‘I’ve not looked that far back’ so then you’d have to go and look at that one.

“A lot of the great drivers could really build a picture of what was going on around them, and what you were trying to achieve as a strategy so he could imagine the lines that we have on the paper as it was happening in real life.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR21.
10.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Practice Day.
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“He would always communicate through his race engineer, but he would always be discussing what was happening in the strategy” from what he was able to discern on track and from glimpses of TV screens around the circuit.

“[He would] say, ‘So-and-so has pitted. I’ve seen them come in the pattern on the TV, I know what’s going to happen next’. They’re building the image of what it’s looking like.”

Vettel called time on his F1 career after just two seasons at Aston Martin, opening the door for Fernando Alonso to take over his seat for what proved to be a breakthrough run in the first half of 2023.

Although Vettel wasn’t around to benefit from the surge in Aston’s performance, the team praised his “relentless” nature for helping to turbo-charge their campaign after his departure.

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