Sebastian Vettel’s 2022 Formula 1 season is finally gaining momentum after the false start that was his two-race absence and his nightmarish first appearance in Australia.
Being 15th in the championship with two points to his name, in races in the rain, hardly seems like amazing form on paper. And that’s a far cry from where Vettel and his Aston Martin team want to be.
As his career draws to a close, Vettel admitted he needs to be motivated to continue. After a worrying start, the signs are now positive that Vettel and his car have something worth fighting for this season.
Aston Martin haven’t had many chances to fight in the right half of the grid this season. When it does, it was Vettel who led that charge.
At Imola he was in a good position to make the most of Aston Martin’s good pace in the rain in wet qualifying and the Grand Prix, and came away with a fine eighth place.
He did well in Miami too. It was spirited driving, with some very nice overtakes – one over Nicholas Latifi, then a neat double pass over Mick Schumacher and Esteban Ocon to crack into the top 10.
Unfortunately for Vettel, that hit on Schumacher and Ocon led to disaster seconds later when Schumacher attempted an aggressive meal at the next corner and Vettel saw him too late, so they collided and Vettel’s race ended. been ruined.
Nonetheless, finishing 10th in Monaco marked the end of a quietly encouraging weekend for Vettel and Aston Martin’s heavily revised AMR22.
The car looked much happier than it did when its “launch spec” debuted in Spain the previous week and Vettel was a little happier from start to finish.
While his teammate Lance Stroll ruined everything in qualifying, Vettel entered Q3. It reinforces the feeling that he is doing a better job at Aston Martin this year compared to Stroll than he was last year.
Ultimately Vettel is not in F1 to sneak into Q3 or grab a solitary point here and there, but it still looks like a decent step up from what we saw a few weeks ago.
After Australia, given the form of the team and the obvious struggles with the 2022 car, it was natural to wonder whether or not Vettel had the motivation to continue.
Now Vettel looks and sounds more like a racer ready to fight, and his performance backs it up. Coupled with a car that is only set to get stronger, that form is a sign that staying in F1 with Aston Martin may be worth it for Vettel.
CASE STUDY: KEY VETTEL FEATURES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
Vettel made a pretty big mistake in Monaco, where he skated the second round at Ste Devote when the conditions were at their most tricky. He struggled to engage the front tires in the wet and touched the yellow line under braking.
It was a costly mistake as it dropped him behind Esteban Ocon but under the circumstances it was at least understandable. More importantly, it wasn’t as important to Vettel’s run as being on the slower midfield strategy of switching to intermediates and then slicks.
Although very few got their wet tires out long enough to go straight to slicks, Valtteri Bottas and Ocon did – and it was this, rather than Vettel’s trip down the trailing lane, that put Vettel out of the way. point positions for the remainder of the Grand Prix.
And in a race where every driver and team had a few key opportunities to define their afternoon, some of Vettel’s key characteristics made a big difference in his final result.
Once Vettel caught Daniel Ricciardo and Zhou Guanyu, he spent a few laps bottled up behind the wet cars. While frustrating, Vettel wasn’t exactly a passive follower – he harassed Zhou a lot and eventually forced an error on Rascasse that allowed Vettel to cut back and sneak into the final corner.
Vettel then trailed Ricciardo for just a few laps before lining up a pass through Casino and sending it to Mirabeau. It was vital because on the rest of the lap Vettel took a 5.5 second lead. This preceded a period in which Vettel was the fastest car on track and he quickly caught up to Pierre Gasly in front.
Aston Martin told him to pit (to switch to slicks and undermine Gasly) but Vettel still passed him coming out of the pool section, so he was able to stay out for another lap.
The team wanted Vettel to stretch further if possible, but Vettel relayed that George Russell, having emerged on slicks ahead of him, was quicker – so the team called him. Vettel joined a comfortable 11th net.
Although he still needed a penalty from Ocon to be high in the points, it’s worth noting that a mix of speed, decision and sharp thinking from Vettel was the reason he was in the starting position. benefit from it before anyone else.
THE VETTEL CHOICE
Vettel’s 2022 season got off to a bad start, missing the first two races thanks to COVID-19 and then enduring an accident-strewn weekend in Australia on his return. But since then, things have accelerated.
The question now is whether Vettel wants to continue racing in F1, and does Aston Martin believe he is the best driver available?
Earlier this year, Vettel hinted that his decision could depend on the progress made by Aston Martin.
He always said he didn’t want to stay in F1 to catch up and was eager to fight at the front. Vettel also indicated that the decisions Aston Martin is making now could dictate his future success – and his desire to stay.
Team principal Mike Krack admitted it was up to Aston Martin to provide the tools for Vettel’s performance.
Aston Martin has introduced a massive aero upgrade in Spain, a package that is just beginning to show its true potential.
It means the performance Aston Martin unlocks in future races could be decisive in whether Vettel wants to continue with the team – and possibly even in F1.