Aston Martin drivers - Sebastian Vettel
With the four-time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, retiring at the end of the 2022 season, we look back at his successful career.
A look at the career of the now retired four-time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, and his impact on AstonMartin F1
After dominating the sport throughout the 2010s, much was promised when it was announced that former Red Bull and Ferrari driver, Sebastian Vettel, had signed for the newly named Aston Martin F1 team for the 2021 season. Although results have been hard to come by over the last two years, the German driver has still made a sizeable impact on the burgeoning team, scoring the majority of its points in that time.
Vettel’s place in F1 was all but guaranteed when the then 17-year-old dominantly secured the 2004 Formula BMW Championship by winning 18 of the season’s 20 races. Following a subsequent test for the Williams and Sauber Grand Prix teams, he became the latter’s test driver for 2007, making his race debut at Indianapolis the same year when his Sauber teammate, Robert Kubica, suffered a heavy crash at Canada the week before. After starting seventh, Vettel finished a fine eighth to become the-then youngest driver to score a point in Formula One.
Since Vettel was already contracted to the well-known Austrian energy drink manufacturer, Sauber released him to race for Red Bull’s junior team, Toro Rosso, for the rest of the 2007 season, securing a full-time seat the following year. At the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, Vettel fulfilled his promise by becoming not only the youngest driver to take pole but to also win a race. As Toro Rosso’s then team boss, Gerhard Berger, said, “He proved today he can win races, but he’s going to win World Championships.”
Berger was right. After being promoted to Red Bull’s senior team for 2009 – winning its maiden victory at China the same year – Vettel would take the 2010-2013 World Championships. In 2015 the German moved to Ferrari, yet despite getting close, he failed to win the Drivers’ Championship for the Italian team. After several costly mistakes on both sides, the relationship soured and in May 2020 it was announced he was leaving.
Vettel was soon picked up by Lawrence Stroll, the Canadian billionaire who had bought Racing Point in 2018 and who had big plans for the team including renaming it Aston Martin – which he also owned a 17 percent share in – for 2021.
As an experienced multiple race winner, the German was exactly what Stroll was looking for to lead the team. “One of the ways we are going to be World Champions is to get my guys to think and act like World Champions,” said Stroll at the time. “And how you do that is bring a four-time World Champion into the team. He is going to take the team in a direction of leading us to where ultimately we want to be.”
But despite Racing Point being a race winner in 2020, the newly named Aston Martin F1 team took a step backwards in its debut year. Due to the Mercedes-engined AMR21 lacking speed, Vettel struggled all season and regularly finished out of the points.
The highlight of his two years at Aston Martin was a well-deserved second place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June 2021, the marque’s first ever podium in F1. “I am over the moon,” he said afterwards, “and P2 means a great deal to all of us.”
But no matter the result, Vettel always understood the significance of motorsport for this historic brand, as shown in July 2022 when he took Aston’s oldest racing car – known as ‘Little Pea’ – for a lap of France’s Paul Ricard circuit on the 100th anniversary of the company’s first grand prix. “The racing spirit and will to win is something that defines Aston Martin,” he said at the time.
Vettel’s growing hard line stance on the environment was at odds with the extravagances of F1. And so following another series of poor finishes, it came as no great surprise when in July he announced his retirement from F1 at the end of the 2022 season. “Although our results have not been as good as we had hoped, it is very clear to me that everything is being put together that a team needs to race at the very highest level for years to come.”
Vettel’s time at Aston Martin F1 might not have been as successful as everyone was initially hoping for, but as a highly accomplished and successful driver, he was still exactly who and what the team needed in its formation years. He will go down in history as one of the greatest drivers ever to drive for this historic marque.