Former Force India team principal Colin Kolles has given his verdict on the current state of affairs at Aston Martin, insisting that owner Lawrence Stroll is too heavily involved in the operation.
Stroll took over the team in its Force India days in 2018 amid huge financial issues when Vijay Mallya found himself in legal trouble.
They spent the rest of the year racing under the Racing Point Force India name, before becoming Racing Point in 2019, with the Canadian signing his son Lance, whose seat he had paid for at Williams.
They got their first-ever win via Sergio Perez in 2020 before the Mexican joined Red Bull, and replaced him with Sebastian Vettel during their transitional phase to Aston Martin – the iconic British motoring name returning to F1 after 60 years away.
However, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll managed 16 points finishes between them during the German’s first season last year, finishing seventh in the Constructors’ Championship and a substantial margin adrift of their form the previous season.
Vettel has previously indicated that his contract renewal beyond the end of this year depends on the team’s performance, but they have made an abysmal start to this season.
Vettel has been forced to miss the opening two rounds of the season after contracting Covid-19, with Nico Hulkenberg stepping in to replace him.
The German has performed admirably alongside Stroll after a lengthy absence from the sport, but they have failed to score any points thus far in a woefully underperforming car.
Kolles suggests that Vettel has no interest in returning from his COVID-enforced break to drive what looks a dire 2022 machine.
“I don’t think he wants to drive at all. He just doesn’t want to do that to himself,” he said in conversation with Sport1.
“It’s certainly a very daring thesis but I’m sure that he thinks a lot about whether he should still be doing what he’s doing.”
At Aston Martin, Stroll has acquired the services of Martin Whitmarsh as CEO and Mike Krack as team principal, as well as promoting Andy Green to the role of chief technical officer.
There is an abundance of leaders at the Silverstone squad, and former team principal Otmar Szafnauer left due to the convoluted nature of the running of the team.
Kolles affirms that Stroll’s five-year championship plan has no hope of success as long as he interferes with the experienced people he has at the helm.
“It won’t work. Why? They have a team owner who thinks he is the team leader,” he explained.
“He knows best about everything and puts his son at the centre with all of his power. That’s the completely wrong approach for me.”
“If you take a million in any currency and throw it on a fire, the money will burn up just as quickly as it will in Formula 1 if you don’t know what you’re doing.
“That’s what we are seeing at Aston Martin.”
Aston Martin notoriously use the same wind tunnel as Mercedes, and were fined 400,000 euros in 2020 for directly copying Mercedes championship-winning 2019 car.
They used to take parts from the Brackley squad before regulations precluded certain transactions, and this, in the Romain-German’s mind, makes workers question their competence.
“The mood in the team is really bad when you take parts from somewhere else. Because then you know that the owner doesn’t trust you,” he added.
Kolles maintains that, if Stroll wishes to keep Vettel around, he must provide the funding and utilise the skills of the people he has employed rather than impede them.
“Sebastian Vettel is older now, he’s earned a lot of money and has a family. He’s changed in the mind and now knows exactly what’s going on,” he stated.
“He knows that the fish always stinks from the head [and] I see the team going nowhere.
“As long as Mr Whitmarsh is in charge and Mr Stroll doesn’t realise that he needs to stay at home, set the budget and let the people who know what they’re doing get the people they need to lead the team, it’s never going to work.”
Jovial reactions on social media pointed to Vettel getting a red pen out and marking his COVID test as positive so that he did not have to drive the Aston Martin in Jeddah, and former Formula 1 diver Ralf Schumacher indicates that, having watched Hulkenberg out-qualify his Canadian team-mate in Bahrain and out-race him in Jeddah, it may be prudent for the team to re-evaluate their line-up.
“There are really only two possibilities. Either Nico has been underestimated for years, or the current regular drivers need to be reconsidered,” he told Sky Germany.
Having missed the first two races of the year, Aston Martin anticipate that Vettel will be ready for the 2022 Australian Grand Prix which takes place in two weeks’ time.