Few people will remember the last time Aston Martin competed as a Formula 1 manufacturer—the British brand’s last full works entry was as long ago as 1960. But after a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll took control of the sports-car maker last year, there was little surprise when the decision was announced to rebrand Stroll’s Racing Point Formula 1 team to compete under Aston colors.
Adding four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastien Vettel to drive alongside Stroll’s son Lance, and it’s an exciting time for the Aston Martin F1 team.
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer, speaking ahead of the launch of the Aston Martin Cognizant AMR21, said he is optimistic the rebranded outfit will continue where Racing Point left off. Last season, Sergio Perez took the team’s first and only victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020.
“We hope this year continues on that same path and we’ll be fighting for podiums from the start of the season,” he said. “My anticipation is that if we come out as strong as we finished last year, and if we’ve done a good job over the winter, we should be a little bit closer to Red Bull. But I anticipate those people around us—Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, they will all (have done) a good job over the winter.”
Szafnauer was confident that the 2021 season will start on time despite the continued issue of COVID around the world.
“As far as I know today the schedule is still planned to be a 23-race schedule,” he said, “I think the FIA and the FOM (Formula 1 Management) and the teams have done a really good job of adhering to a stringent COVID protocol that we have in place, the testing regimes that are put in place and the bubbles and sub-bubbles that the teams have in place in case somebody tests positive it doesn’t take out the entire team.”
The UK’s schedule for easing COVID restrictions means that the British Grand Prix on July 18 would be allowed to run with a live audience.
The arrival of Sebastien Vettel from Ferrari has created an fascinating dynamic within the team, Stroll having proved his pace by taking pole position at the Turkish Grand Prix last year.
“He gets on with Lance really well, and because Lance drove last year’s car we’re going to rely on him heavily at the start of the season,” Szafnauer said, “it seems like (Vettel) is fitting in really well, he’s got the same mindset he wants the same things and we have the same work ethic.”
Szafnauer added that the team has been learning from Vettel in some areas.
“If you are a four-time world champion, you gain experience of what you have to do to achieve that,” Szafnauer said. “If you haven’t won a world championship, you think you know what it takes, but it’s really good to shortcut the process.
“I’ll give you one example—safety car restart when you’re leading the race. What should you be doing? Did we think of that, not often. Should we have? Probably we had one opportunity last year where we did have a red flag restart leading the race (at the Italian Grand Prix) and we should have thought what to do. We ended up third, we would have had a chance to win.
“It’s those little things.”
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