7 candidates to replace Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin F1 Team
- When Sebastian Vettel was unceremoniously dismissed by Ferrari in 2020, it was the newly rebranded Aston Martin team that provided the long-term vision.
- Vettel, however, cut that vision short when he announced he would retire at the end of the season.
- Replacing Vettel won’t be an easy task for a team that doesn’t have a clear candidate waiting in the wings.
Aston Martin did not expect to enter the Formula 1 summer vacation in search of a new lead driver.
When Sebastian Vettel was unceremoniously fired by Ferrari in 2020, it was the newly rebranded Aston Martin team that provided a long-term vision for a new project, rejuvenating an iconic British entity, with new regulations. of Formula 1 on the horizon which promised an opportunity for all.
Vettel signed a multi-year deal, with Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll securing a big name for the fledgling project, laying out a four-to-five-year plan to compete for wins and world titles.
There has been massive investment at Silverstone, with a new factory due to open in 2023, while recruitment has accelerated since Stroll’s mid-2018 acquisition of what was then Force India.
So far, Stroll’s vision remains just that; last year Aston Martin fell from fourth to seventh place, feeling they were crippled by the subtle but influential changes to ground regulations. This year, he failed to master the new regulations and ranks ninth out of 10 teams. After 12 laps he has 19 points, Vettel scoring 15.
Vettel’s decision to retire had many facets – family, energy, issues beyond racing – but he admitted he “doesn’t get a lot of fun and motivation from being here and making it simply gone”, which is what the last three years – 2020 at Ferrari, 2021/22 at Aston Martin – have largely resembled.
Aston Martin had been open to wanting to continue with Vettel. From the first air races new team principal Mike Krack said he wanted Vettel to stay, and in the retirement press release owner Stroll said “we have clearly indicated that we wanted him to continue with us next year”.
He leaves a Vettel-shaped hole in Aston Martin’s project. There is no driver available who can bring Aston Martin the knowledge of 53 wins, four titles and 15 years of experience in leading teams. Krack acknowledged that “the preparatory work that Sebastian did last year, and continues to do this year, is crucial” in a team that has been rooted in midfield for decades but now has the ambition – and finances – to fight at the front. . He must now also make a driver decision not just for 2023, but potentially for 2024 and beyond.
If Stroll wants a big name to parachute in alongside his son Lance, there are really only two alternatives: Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricardo.
Alonso’s Alpine contract ends after 2022 but the 41-year-old is highly motivated to continue, preferably with his current employers.
“All teams are an option until they have two drivers signed,” Alonso said cheerfully. “My priority is to be with Alpine. We have been working and developing this project together for two years now. We are getting more and more competitive. My wish is probably to stay.
Ricciardo is the only other multiple-race winner on the grid facing an uncertain future, but he and McLaren have been adamant that his 2023 contract with the team will be upheld. There is also Pierre Gasly, now approaching 100 Grands Prix and a race winner, but he has a 2023 AlphaTauri contract and was firm. “I have a contract and I always go through with my contract. Red Bull helped me for 10 years and for me there is nothing to discuss about it,” he said Thursday.
If Aston Martin wants a safe pair of hands, there is the uninspiring but alien option of Nico Hulkenberg. He hasn’t competed full-time since 2019 but has been the team’s reserve rider for the past three years, racing in five races when the regular riders caught Covid-19, most recently for Vettel at Bahrain and Saudi Arabia this year. As a potential placeholder, before we weigh the options for 2024 when other drivers might become available, he’s not an unreasonable option.
There is the possibility of diving at the other end of the spectrum and looking for a new face who could potentially lead the team in the long term. But unlike Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes Aston Martin do not have a young driver program from which they have options to build. It has a power unit partnership with Mercedes but, unlike Williams, this hasn’t extended to those in the cockpit.
The best young talent not on the grid is 2021 F2 champion Oscar Piastribut Alpine is extremely keen not to lose his long-term services, having funded the final years of his junior career.
Mercedes has Nyck de Vries as a reserve driver, but he lacks experience and his own future with the Silver Arrows is uncertain amid his impending departure from Formula E. De Vries was Formula 2 champion in 2019 and deserves a chance.
One driver not yet under contract for 2023 who could make an interesting choice for Aston Martin is Haas Mick Schumacher. He is backed by Ferrari, but there is no indication they see him as a viable candidate for the long-term team, having signed Carlos Sainz to partner Charles Leclerc until 2024.
For his part, Haas indicated that he will discuss the situation of his pilots (Kevin Magnussen has a contract for 2023) during the summer break and will probably make a decision in September. Schumacher’s improved performance, market appeal and lack of notable alternatives mean prosecution is likely. Haas has spent 18 months bringing Schumacher to this point and does not want to start from scratch with another driver.
However, the Schumacher-Aston Martin rumor exists almost solely through the youngster’s relationship with Vettel. Vettel has been extremely close to Schumacher, whose father Michael was Vettel’s childhood hero, and has taken on an unofficial mentor role. “I’m obviously not entirely objective because I’m very close to him” and the identity of his successor is not his decision.
This leaves Aston Martin facing a crucial decision for the next leg of its journey – and one it never expected to make.
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