Eighth place “as a victory”: Sebastian Vettel and the open future of Formula 1

Updated on 25/04/2022 10:46

  • Sebastian Vettel scored his first points of the season’s fourth Formula 1 race at Imola.
  • In Imola, his future at Aston Martin and in the top class was a big topic.
  • He stressed that much will depend on the coming weeks.

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Motorsport is often a mental state, the psyche plays a crucial role. A relatively inconspicuous event is so often enough to resolve knots, as a turning point. Sebastian Vettel’s eighth place in the season’s fourth race at Imola may already be just a number in the Formula 1 statistics, but for Vettel, the first points in 2022 felt like a victory. For it’s still clear: “In terms of pure speed, we would not have been among the top ten,” Vettel said.

But it hit the Aston Martin team hard – until Imola as the only racing team without points – and Vettel took full advantage of the difficult conditions. With a strong performance in the wet, Vettel laid the foundation to score points, which the team rounded off with an early switch to slicks. “We did everything right in terms of strategy, we made no mistakes, I’m really happy with my performance,” Vettel said. And to emphasize the quality of his performance, he added: “I had victories where I drove worse than today.”

It’s been a long time since Heppenheimer had reason to celebrate at Aston Martin. And it’s even longer since he was as euphoric after eighth place as he is now in Imola. For he knows what this “victory” means, especially for the team. “You work your way up, and when you have a good package, it’s easy to get good results,” Vettel said. But how much work is invested back in the field, which he has not appreciated for many years, he admits, after all, he was not affected.

Vettel: “I’m happy with the team”

His insight: “It’s harder because you do not get a cookie as a reward after a race. Try to get your dog to jump without giving him a cookie that he gets afterwards,” joked the four-time world champion. Therefore, the result is good for the team: “I am happy for the team,” said Vettel.

The sense of accomplishment comes at a time when Vettel was philosophizing a lot about his future. In Imola he gave an insight into his inner life, into the difficult situation of being a four-time world champion with no chance at the moment and therefore also a bit powerless. His future at Aston Martin has been questioned for weeks, as well as his overall motivation for Formula 1. Vettel has long shone with commitment and a clear stance on social issues such as sustainability, environmental protection and politics. On the racetrack, on the other hand, the paint has been gone for a long time.

It tastes different

“I can look back on fantastic 15 years or so. I have been able to win world championships, have been on the podium a lot. It was fantastic,” he said, but made no secret of the fact that the current situation is “a little tasteless. “You have to motivate yourself differently. But I still want to experience the taste of winning again,” said Vettel.

Yet he does not know what to do now. – It is no secret that of course it also depends on how this year goes, and then we have to see, says Vettel. Physically, he emphasizes, he still has many years ahead of him. But that is not the primary concern. “That is ultimately the goal: to win and fight for podiums and victories that we are still far from at the moment.” How quickly Aston Martin is able to do this is unclear.

The little things motivate

Therefore, it is the other, it is the small things that need to motivate. Imola for example. Or the fact that the team is growing. “A lot of things that look promising,” as Vettel puts it. And that’s what it’s about, according to Heppenheimer: “How promising does the future look?” That’s why the next few months will be “very important,” Vettel said, “defining the direction for the rest of the year. It would be wrong to write off the season. In a few months, we will know where we are.”

Then Vettel also knows where he stands if he signs a new contract again, because the current one at Aston Martin expires after this season. “He’s not a driver who wants to fight for 18th place,” said Aston Martin team manager Mike Krack. He strengthens Vettel’s back.

“Then you would be stupid”

If a racing team has a driver like Vettel and can give him a car that motivates him, “then you would be stupid if you did not try to keep him,” he stressed. But Krack also knows, “It’s up to us to offer him the tools he needs to perform.” Moments like in Imola do not remain unusual. For motorsport is often a matter of the mind.

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