Sebastian Vettel’s much-anticipated debut with the Aston Martin F1 Team is just a matter of days away, but the German may find himself struggling in the first race as his running time in pre-season testing was severely limited due to his AMR21 suffering a series of mechanical issues.
Speaking after the three-day test in Bahrain, Vettel emphasised that it’s difficult to get an idea of the pecking order from testing, as there are so many different variables and unknowns in play.
Furthermore, the four-time World Champion stressed that it’s even difficult for him to get a sense of how good a job Aston Martin have done with regards to their 2021 challenger, as a car can feel good to drive but end up being very slow relative to the competition.
“It will be difficult to filter all the impressions because the tyres are different, the cars have changed, and I’m sure that lots of the experiences I’ve made other people have made as well so it’s all relative,” Vettel said on Sunday.
“In terms of performance, as far as what I’ve seen, it looks to be very close.
“That would be good if it’s like that, so yeah, Red Bull looks very strong, Mercedes – anything [other] than being at the top would be a surprise for everyone – but it looks like all the midfield has caught up.
“But it depends how the car feels; if the car feels fine, but it’s relative.
“The car can feel fantastic but if it’s too slow, it’s painful, and if it feels horrible but it’s faster than everyone else’s then you accept it. We’ll find out more when we go racing,” he explained.
Vettel completed just 117 laps – the least of any driver – across the three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain, as he was hampered by a series of mechanical issues on his AMR21.
Ex-F1 driver Ralf Schumacher said this week that he expects Vettel to struggle in the season-opener in Bahrain on 28 March due to his limited running in testing.
“This [the season-opener] is going to be a tough weekend, definitely,” Schumacher said.
“For Sebastian, it can almost be a bit of a pity, what happens now? He couldn’t really test all the new systems like the steering wheel.
“Poor Sebastian is now coming into the season in a completely new car, he has already said the steering feels different and he is not so happy. And then he is also deprived of the opportunity to adjust to it,” he added.
Vettel admitted that he would have liked to have had more time in the car to get prepared for his debut race with Aston Martin, but he didn’t suggest it will severely impact his performance.
“There will be a race and I’m looking forward to going racing. Testing is not that exciting, but if everything is new then we would have liked to have more days, also with the little hiccups that we had,” Vettel said.
“But it is what it is, so as I said, it won’t be like testing, it will still be racing but we will have to learn a lot.
“And everyone will, I think it’s not just us and it’s not just the lack of laps here, but everyone in the first couple of races will learn about their cars, the tyres and more.
“Naturally you are at a different stage when you approach the middle and the end of the season than the beginning.”