Speculation has been renewed around Sebastian Vettel’s future at Aston Martin amid concerns he could retire at the end of the season.
Having won four championships with Red Bull and taken 53 race wins with a combination of the Milton Keynes side and Ferrari, Vettel joined Aston Martin at the end of 2020, and scored seven points finishes last year on his way to 12th in the Drivers’ Standings, one position and nine points clear of team-mate Lance Stroll.
It was a frustrating year for Lawrence Stroll’s team having almost clinched third in the Constructors’ Championship the year previous under their Racing Point guise and, upon the return of the British motoring brand, they could only achieve seventh last season.
2022 has not treated them much better so far as they failed to score points in any of the first three rounds of the year with an erratic car that “frightened” Lance during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, and their woes were compounded by Vettel missing the opening two races after contracting COVID-19, although it must be added that Nico Hulkenberg did a splendid job deputising under the circumstances.
In changing conditions in Imola, both of them finished in the top 10, but their form is still a shadow of what it once was in their Force India and Racing Point days, leaving doubts as to the realism of Lawrence’s five-year championship plan.
Vettel indicated ahead of this season that, if the car is not capable of giving him satisfactory results, he may decide to hang up his boots at the end of the year.
“We want to progress and win. So, ultimately, having had the path that I have had so far, I’m mostly interested in winning and that will determine what the future brings,” he said.
Now though, he has clarified that he would love to stay and help the Silverstone squad rectify what has been a difficult start to the year.
“We will choose the path we climb which will determine the next three to four years, so that’s why I feel it’s really important to focus on that and it takes all the attention,” he explained.
“Those will be the key things I will be looking at to see how promising it is looking in the future and how soon, because obviously I’m not really old – I think I would have physically a lot of years left, it’s not a problem at all.”
The German reiterated that there is a lot of work ahead of him and his team to one day achieve the championship and, with the help of their new auxiliary factory in Silverstone potentially drawing him back in, it is an indication that he is in it for the long haul.
“That’s ultimately the goal – to win and fight for podiums and victories, [from] which currently we are far away,” added Vettel.
“But there is plenty of work, so that’s also very exciting – to know where we are now and to take the little steps and define the path for the future.”
Alonso’s form has been a lot better than his results have reflected. Having scored two points in Bahrain, a reliability failure put him out of the race in Jeddah, before an oil seal broke in qualifying in Melbourne, costing the Spaniard pole having gone faster than eventual polesitter Charles Leclerc in both of the first two sectors.
The double-world champion still looked set for a solid result – perhaps even a podium – in the race, but an untimely Safety Car left him in a limbo in terms of strategy, as he still had too long left to go in the race to make Mediums or Softs go to the end having started on Hards.
Contact with Mick Schumacher in Imola put pay to his running in round four, so all told he might ultimately have found himself in the top seven in the championship rather than 15th – one position behind Vettel.
Alonso is also out of contract this year, but he too has asserted his intention to continue racing.
“As I said at the beginning of the year, I still feel competitive and fast and feel that I am enjoying time in Formula 1,” he said.
“So, I will race, I guess, a couple more years – two or three more years.”
As a result, a report from F1-Insider insinuates that Aston Martin may be inclined to choose the 32-time race winner to replace Vettel should the German leave, but team principal Mike Krack has insisted that his team would be “foolish” if they did not try to incentivise him to stay.
The ambitious project at Silverstone, coupled with Vettel’s own motivation to stay, might just be all the incentive he needs.