Why Aston Martin can help salvage Vettel's F1 career
Sebastian Vettel is now officially an Aston Martin driver following the handover period that took place at the beginning of the year.
With his time at Ferrari over, the German has been set free from the shackles of the enormous pressure he had placed upon himself by a series of high-profile mistakes over the previous two-and-a-half seasons.
If you pick apart the rather torrid last two to three seasons of Vettel's time at the Scuderia, the issues began at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in 2018.
When leading his home race, Vettel slid off in the final sector as rain started to fall, with main title rival Lewis Hamilton picking up the pieces on his way to a fourth world championship.
Vettel proceeded to spin out whilst side-by-side with Hamilton at Monza, collide with Max Verstappen in Japan and spin again whilst battling Daniel Ricciardo in the USA that same season.
The following year provided a clean slate for Vettel, but more errors followed, such as his dramatic spin and subsequent front-wing failure in Bahrain followed by his clumsy error at the Ascari chicane in Monza that involved colliding with new Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll on re-entry to the circuit.
The string of errors left him fifth in the standings behind Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen as well as the two Mercedes. But 2020 would, again, provide a new opportunity, or so we thought...
Ferrari woes rub salt into open wound
Vettel's season had not even started before he knew he had been ousted by Ferrari. With the delay to the start of the campaign caused by Covid-19, the Scuderia opted to replace Vettel with Carlos Sainz.
What was worse was the fact the team provided a woefully under-powered engine for the SF1000, which itself was draggy and - looking at the final standings - was only the sixth-best car on the grid.
Even this result was masked by some superhero-like performances from Leclerc throughout the season. That is not to put Vettel down - he still finished on the podium in Turkey for some solace - but the gulf between the two team-mates was staggering.
There were glimpses of some of the old mistakes creeping in, such as his crash during Russian GP qualifying and a spin at Silverstone on lap one.
But Vettel himself conceded to taking more risks than usual in order to try and counteract the deficiencies of the car.
His fault or not, his swansong at Maranello was a torrid experience but the Aston Martin move has provided some hope.
Can Vettel and Aston Martin become a winning force?
Vettel will no doubt be buoyed by Sergio Perez's victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix last December for Racing Point. Now the Silverstone-based team has become a winning marque since the boost of funds from the consortium headed by Lawrence Stroll ahead of the Aston Martin arrival, could the team realistically battle Mercedes and Red Bull for a season?
The team has a new factory in the offing as well as the new low-rake philosophy taken by the designers akin to Mercedes' championship-winning formula.
But why could this reignite Vettel's spark? For a start, there is no pressure on him. No race wins are expected straightaway - realistically at least - whilst he doesn't have the heavy burden of pleasing the Tifosi on his shoulders any more.
He has been entrusted to lead the team into its new era over the well-known quantity of Perez, who has been as loyal a servant to a team as anybody could hope for.
When Vettel left Red Bull on the back of being defeated by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, he roared back to life when given the support of Ferrari to perform a similar role as to that being asked of him by Aston Martin.
This season is the perfect opportunity to shake the demons from his back and prepare for the new regulations arriving in 2022. Sebastian Vettel's Formula 1 dealings are far from over.
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