September is a month of changes: Summer that gives way to Autumn, days get shorter, rains begin to fall insistently. As well as the leaves that begin to darken and abandon the stems to which they had been tied in the previous months. September, in F1, is the period of reshuffling, of defining the future. In short, it is the month of official or more or less whispered announcements. Why will Vettel stay with Aston Martin in 2022 too?
Never as this year has the drivers market been a seething, restless solfatara, ready to explode. With the announced farewell of Kimi Raikkonen who leaves the category after 20 years and with the practically defined farewell of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes, a sort of seat waltz has begun with few precedents, given the amount of protagonists involved.
(Almost) certainly George Russell will go to sit in the cockpit of the car heir to the W12. So, even in Williams, there will be a place to fill. Diplomacy is at work because many drivers already on the grid are claiming the right to still be part of the F1 of the future. It’s a puzzle we try to solve.
If in Red Bull, Ferrari, Alpine, McLaren, Mercedes and maybe Haas, things are defined, elsewhere there are several pieces to fit together. In Alpha Tauri, despite Tsunoda’s not certain exciting performances, there should be no earth tremors. Yuki is a protégé of Honda who, despite retiring, will still have some power being the founding base of the nascent Milton Keynes powertrains department. So we can take it off the market.
Not everyone knows that Red Bull has a strong Thai component: it was Dieter Mateschitz who imported from Thailand and slightly modified the composition of a very popular drink widespread in the Southeast Asian country, the Krating Daeng (meaning Red Bull), creating a new mix on which a capitalist empire was born. Red Bull GmbH, also in terms of corporate capital, sees the presence of a huge "Thai" component. Which presses for Alex Albon to return to the Circus. And how do you put pressure on in F1? With money. In a time of more or less widespread financial crisis, second-tier teams could succumb to the lure of money that smells of energizing nectar and they could hire the London-born driver. Williams is the expected team to welcome Albon alongside Nicholas Latifi, another driver with generous sponsors behind him. Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin complete the chessboard. And at this regard the discussion becomes interesting. Let's start with certainties, in the hope of not being proven wrong soon: Antonio Giovinazzi, despite the rumors of the previous days, should hold onto the seat of the red-white car. Also by virtue of the partnership with Ferrari (of whose Academy the Apulian is representative), which someone, in a somewhat grotesque way, had questioned. So much so that Wolff, yesterday, with a sardonic smile, found himself forced to deny the feared supply of the Mercedes power units to the Swiss team. Motorfiction. Another sure fact is the permanence of Lance Stroll in the court of father Lawrence. And God forbid. The fact is this: Valtteri Bottas dances between Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo. Let's clarify it immediately: the Finnish is destined to travel the road from Brackley to Hinwil. At this point there are no more doubts.
But Toto Wolff, a kind of octopus with branched tentacles everywhere, has raised the phone in recent days to see if there was room for allocating the blond lumberjack in Aston Martin. The Austrian team principal is a close friend and business colleague of Lawrence the Canadian. It is in the normal order of things that a few words have been said. Nothing to be surprised or scandalized about. We are not fair young virgins, aren't we? On the other end of the phone Lawrence Sheldon Strulovitch has made it clear that Aston Martin's 2022 line up remains as it is. It turns out to us that Wolff thanked and greeted without insisting too much and then moved on to the operational plan that will materialize with the marriage between Bottas and Alfa-Sauber. Earlier in the day, rumors had spread that Sebastian Vettel had been, so to speak, jubilated. It turns out to us that the German signed, last year, a one-year contract plus an option for another. And the eventual farewell could come if the former Ferrari driver would decide to say it's enough. And he absolutely never thought about it.
Furthermore, from information acquired in the Aston Martin environment, it appears that there is maximum satisfaction for the work done by the German who, in a few months, has become a pillar of the team. A solid bond, in short, based on mutual satisfaction and on a series of evidences that say that one cannot think of doing, with such a light heart, without a four-time world champion.
Seb encountered some difficulties in approaching the new working environment. Problems also depended on short winter tests marred by continuous technical delinquencies that prevented him from finding the right feeling with the single-seater and with the new operating methods. But, with the development of the F1 season, the driver has grown in performance and in “presence” becoming a mine of precious points with great achievements sublimated in the Baku podium and in the missed placement in the Hungarian GP, caused by the well-known post-race problems at the petrol pump.
Vettel, in the space of a few months, has become an essential technical point of reference for a rich team that has high-ranking ambitions. Just think of certain details that became operational thanks to the German. The British engineers, with the precious indications of the former Toro Rosso driver, have practically rebuilt the steering wheel which has now become more functional and more usable in the hectic stages of the race. Furthermore, we know from internal sources that certain working methods have been modified and optimized on the basis of the prescriptions imposed by the Heppenheim driver that derive from the experience accumulated in structured teams such as Ferrari and Red Bull.
The idea that Vettel can be questioned by his team does not therefore seem very real. There has been a lot of talk about it but the bases of the news seem absolutely yielding, unfounded, soft. A novel probably artfully constructed at a time when the media attention on the drivers market is at its maximum. And anyway, in one way or another, Seb always makes the news. Even when the news is not there. The fate of the great …
F1-Autore: Diego Catalano – @diegocat1977
Translation by: Patrizia Campanella
Foto: Aston Martin Cognizant Team F1, F1