Sebastian Vettel: ‘I’m Over The Moon’

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Sunday - Sebastian Vettel (image courtesy Aston Martin F1 Team)

Sebastian Vettel has said he is ‘over the moon’ after taking his first podium for the Aston Martin F1 Team, having started in P11 and put in a superb drive in what has been a long wait for a taste of champagne. 

Hard Work Paying Off

After what was a tough start to life in his new team, where many armchair experts called for him to be sacked, Sebastian Vettel stayed the course, put in the work, and was today rewarded with a fine second-place finish. 

‘Obviously it’s been a tough start for us and yeah, I think it was a great race. We had good pace; that was key. I had a good start, made some positions straight away, looked after my tyres as soon as everybody went to the pits. I had really good pace to overcut I think Yuki at least and then obviously the re-start worked brilliantly for me and got another two positions there. We obviously had fresher tyres, which I guess helped, warming up the tyres later on. A great day. I’m over the moon. For the team it’s great, obviously, a podium. We didn’t expect that when we came here. Already on Friday, even though we were nowhere, it felt good. I was quite relaxed. Yesterday we didn’t quite have it but today, even sweeter.’

A Surprise Result

After starting from P11 on the grid, the four-time champion didn’t have high expectations for Sunday, but was prepared to chip away to keep moving up and add to his points tally. 

‘I didn’t have many expectations, to be honest. I mean, I knew that the whole weekend I felt good, so I knew we can score some points but I certainly didn’t expect second and the race was really strong. 

‘We had a very good first stint. I saved the tyres in the beginning and stayed out longer than most of the people in front of me, which I think helped us later on because, at the restart I had, when the Safety Car came, I was obviously in the mix in P6 and had tyres that were ten laps fresher than everyone else’s. So, probably easier to warm them up and it helped me at the restart to jump Charles and also Pierre. 

‘It was quite hairy into Turn Three and Charles was braver than I expected because I initially braked later than him but he opened the brakes and I thought, OK, for sure, he’s going to hit the wall, so I prepared to get to the inside – but he made it. I don’t know how, but he did. After that, I still had a good feeling on the lap after the restart to get him at the end of the lap and jump him there, so after that we were in fourth and could really go with the pace from the group in the front. 

‘Then, with the red flag, obviously it’s a shame for Max to lose the lead like that. I don’t know what happened. I think Lance had the same issue, the tyre just failing but I think for us, obviously, we then found ourselves in a good spot, in the podium ranks. 

‘Just two laps to go so you just try to keep it together. I was again aggressive on the start and had a good start but nowhere to go and then I obviously saw that Lewis misjudged Turn One. Tried to stay a bit closer with Sergio maybe to do something after the first lap but I was too far away and obviously very happy with P2 and the team. 

‘I think it’s great for us. We had a very rough start to the season. We expected quite a bit more after such a strong year the team had last year. I can’t wait to get back to have a couple of drinks with the guys.’

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Sunday - Sebastian Vettel (image courtesy Aston Martin F1 Team)
2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Sunday – Sebastian Vettel (image courtesy Aston Martin F1 Team)

Joy At 122nd Career Podium

For a racer who has fought at the top of the sport for so long, that feeling of satisfaction and excitement that comes with securing a trophy never gets old. 

‘Well, it’s also been a while, so I think it’s always nice if you join a new team to get together good results. 

‘I sat here on Thursday and said that I’m in it to win and I enjoyed the race because I was getting closer and closer to spots that I enjoy more and more. 

‘Obviously when I was P4 I know that’s good points for the team, for myself but as soon as we were in the podium ranks I really also thought that we can have a say if something happens. We need to be there, be sharp. 

‘In the red flag I stayed in the car, wanted to stay in the zone and not distract myself, so to be ready and yeah, felt that we obviously did the best we could today. It’s quite comfortable in my car – and I’m one of the only drivers that doesn’t pee in the car, so I can stay in there for longer.’

No Concern With Tyres

After the two tyre failures, many drivers talked about feeling concerned that it could happen again. However, with fresher tyres than most, Vettel wasn’t too worried. 

‘I didn’t know what happened [with Stroll]. Obviously I saw that he lost the car very late in the straight so I thought maybe first he clipped the wall outside of 19, but then I looked the next lap and there was not a scratch, so that would have been very unusual but I couldn’t explain why he would crash so late in the straight. 

‘And then the team told me he’s fine. It was strange. Obviously I was on the safer side because my tyres were fresher than everyone else’s but when Max had the same issue, it was quite clear – who’s next? 

‘I don’t know why but this is not supposed to happen so I think there needs to be a bit of an investigation because it’s probably the worst place of the year you want to have this. It could go massively wrong if you get it wrong so close to also to pit entry, to the wall there. We are doing well over 300kph. 

‘I was a bit concerned but then with the red flag then I knew we’re all fitting different tyres and it should be fine. 

I knew it happened around after 30-odd laps because Lance started on the hard tyres and it happened around then and then when Max pitted, it was the same sort of amount of laps. A strange one – but I wasn’t overly concerned because I knew also I would probably be last on the list.’

Small Things Make A Big Difference

In a sport that deals in finite margins, the smallest detail can cost time – and places – which makes acclimating to a new team all the more challenging as it is played out in the public eye. 

With a strong result in Monaco followed up in Azerbaijan, Vettel feels he has now turned the corner. 

‘I think at the level that we are at it’s clear that everybody is able to drive a car very quickly so small things can make a big difference and yeah, probably took a little bit longer than I wanted to at the beginning of the season, to get on top of myself and adjusting to the car but yeah, I think I was confident that at some point it start clicking and obviously Monaco was great. 

‘I think we had a good result there so that helps. You can argue that it takes off a bit of pressure but I think obviously the expectations in general are fairly high at the beginning of the year so it was good to get a good result and for here, I think we were fairly open-minded. 

‘It’s another street circuit, it’s a place where I think you can make a difference if you really feel confident with the car and already on Friday I felt very good, even though the results were bad, but I wasn’t concerned. And then in qualifying unfortunately that one run I had a lock-up and we probably didn’t get the qualifying position we could get but it was one of the races this year where actually our race pace was very strong compared to qualifying pace. 

‘I think other events we had a stronger showing in qualifying and then struggled a bit in the race. It was, if anything, the other way around today so I was very surprised when I found myself in the race, at ease, following the AlphaTauris with Yuki in the beginning and feeling faster, feeling also comfortable to follow the Ferrari follow Charles and putting pressure on so that he had to put pressure on Pierre. 

‘I felt quite comfortable in the car all weekend, which for sure doesn’t hurt, so hopefully we can – similar to Checo – carry that momentum into the next couple of events. France will be a normal track so we will see where we are but hopefully we can fight for points a little bit more regularly.’

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