Exclusive: Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer gives his first impressions of their new star signing and says Sebastian Vettel is ready to have “fun” in Formula 1 again – which means being competitive; Watch first section from Sky Sports interview below
Aston Martin chief Otmar Szafnauer says Sebastian Vettel has arrived at his new team “really hungry” to succeed and believes the four-time champion is fully capable of rediscovering his best form.
After a rollercoaster six years at Ferrari, which featured 14 race wins but no world title and ended with a particularly difficult 2020, Vettel begins a fresh chapter in his career at the outfit that was Racing Point in the first season of their new era.
Vettel made his first factory appearance at Aston Martin last week, completing a seat fitting, and his new team boss has been impressed by the German driver’s approach.
Speaking in an interview with Sky Sports, Szafnauer said: “The way I look at it is at 33 years old you don’t forget how to drive a Formula 1 racing car fast. He definitely hasn’t forgotten how to do that, and the work ethic is still there.
“He’s really, really hungry to perform.
“We’ve started working with him this year already and you can see it. He asked all the right questions and a lot of them. He’s really hungry for knowledge.”
Of a driver renowned for his attention to detail, Szafnauer said: “An engineer described Sebastian to me as [like] having a performance engineer behind the wheel.
“He wants to know as much, if not more, than the performance engineer you have working on the car, whose job it is to understand every little aspect of car performance. Seb wants to know that much – plus more.
“That’s a good trait to have, he has that, he carried that with him to our team. We see it and he is really, really hungry, as he said, to have fun again in Formula 1. But fun to him means being competitive.”
Vettel’s first challenge will be to beat new team-mate Lance Stroll in the sister car, the 22-year-old three-time podium finisher who is entering his third season at the team his father owns.
Szafnauer believes Vettel and Stroll can develop into a “great partnership” for the team in a year he says they have set the target of claiming third in the Constructors’ Championship, after missing out narrowly to McLaren in 2020.
“Seb is very experienced but not over the hill by any means at the age of 33. Lance is much younger and on the learning curve but naturally very fast. So, I think that combination will suit us very well,” he said.
“The other thing is we’ve had a history of drivers working very closely together to extract the most we can out of the team and the car. Even in the days when Esteban [Ocon] and Sergio [Perez] would occasionally come together on track, behind the scenes they shared all their data, they worked together and they worked tirelessly to make sure that we got the best out of the car over a weekend.
“I can see that will continue with Sebastian and Lance. I look forward to that.”
Vettel is the driver with the greater experience, but Szafnauer added: “Lance can learn from Seb. Seb can learn from Lance as well because Lance is now the veteran here.
“He’s the one who has driven last year’s car, he knows the characteristics of it more so than Seb does. So I look forward to that pairing.”
Look out for the full interview with Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer in the forthcoming days on Sky F1’s Digital platforms as he looks ahead to the team’s new era and the 2021 season