Surprise, surprise! Sebastian Vettel is driving for Aston Martin from next season.
Exit stage left, Sergio Perez.
This announcement had been coming for a while.
The rumour mill started churning out stories about Vettel’s move to Aston Martin around the time of the British Grand Prix in August. However, this wasn’t the right time to go public, what with Perez self-isolating after his positive Covid test.
But you can’t keep secrets in Formula One for long – even though this wasn’t really a secret to begin with – so the cat had to be let out of the bag at some point.
And what better time to do it than just before Ferrari celebrate their 1000th grand prix at Mugello!
It’s a big up yours to the Scuderia from Sebastian, and deservedly so. This is a great moment for the four-time world champion.
Ever since being unceremoniously dumped by Ferrari in May, he has been treated almost like he’s the scum of the earth.
Obviously, the team want to make it seem like Vettel’s departure is on good terms but, when there are arguments on team radio every weekend, it’s not hard for people to see past the façade.
Brighter days are ahead for Vettel. You can’t exactly say he’s abandoning a sinking ship at Ferrari because he hasn’t left voluntarily, but he is jumping ship either way.
And the ship he will arrive at is in good shape.
The Mercedes power unit has been all-conquering in the turbo hybrid era and with the new regulations delayed until 2022, it’s more or less guaranteed that it will continue to do so.
Racing Point have also proved that they can deliver such a strong package within the regulations that their rivals have cried foul play as a result. There may be a change in terms of the team’s rebrand to Aston Martin, but I’d be surprised if their car next year is not as strong as this year’s car, at least.
And, once the new regulations do come in eighteen months from now, who’s to say that Racing Point won’t be challenging right at the top of the table?
The signs are all looking good for Vettel to get his career back on track. Not that his career has veered wildly off-course, but things haven’t exactly gone to his liking over the past year or so.
So why is this a bittersweet moment?
It’s bittersweet to me because a good guy in Vettel has to replace another good guy in Perez.
Unfortunately, this was unavoidable. Lawrence Stroll owns the team and of course he’s going to use his powers to keep his son, Lance, in Formula One.
You can’t blame Lawrence for doing that. It’s what any father would do if they were in his shoes.
However, when your son is as divisive as Lance Stroll is, there’s bound to be plenty of criticism landing at your door.
The fact that Lance is in this sport because his dad owns a team cannot be avoided.
Sure, Lance has improved this season compared to last, particularly in qualifying, but he’s still not as good as Perez is.
When Nico Hulkenberg replaced Sergio Perez for the two races at Silverstone in August whilst the Mexican was in self-isolation, he was almost immediately matching Stroll’s pace before comfortably beating him the following weekend.
Yes, Hulkenberg has heaps more experience than young Stroll, but the point still stands. A bloke who had not driven an F1 car, or even been prepared to drive one, for eight months was faster than someone who drives the same car week in, week out.
The Stroll fans may pipe up with ‘but what about his two podiums?’ They’re both flukes if you ask me.
I’ll use his podium at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix as an example. He only found himself up there because of a penalty for Lewis Hamilton and a red flag under which he had a free pit stop.
Now, whilst I think it’s perfectly fine for teams to change tyres during red flag periods because it’s been done for years, I can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that Stroll saved himself 24 seconds by not having to pit at all.
A poor start from the second standing start after the red flag doesn’t reflect well on Stroll either.
That’s why Vettel’s move to Aston Martin is bittersweet.
I’m stoked that Vettel is staying in Formula One and going to drive for a great team.
However, the fact that the driver he is replacing is one that has done far more for Racing Point (and Force India as they once were) than the driver who is going to be his teammate ever has makes me very annoyed.