How Vettel’s disastrous comeback weekend led Aston Martin to question his car RaceFans

Sebastian Vettel did not have much reason to forget cheers after a weekend on his return to racing in Australia.

The Aston Martin driver missed the first two races of the season after contracting Covid-19. But after riding the team’s AMR22 in a shakedown and two Tests for the season, he had no worries about getting back on speed before the weekend began.

“We had a decent test, we had in a way more tests than last year,” he said before the practice began on Friday. “It’s not too long ago, but of course I missed the racing rhythm. It’s obviously a disadvantage not to have those two races and to race with these cars, but I think it’s going well. I’ve done this before, so it has to be good. “

However, he only covered 18 laps that day, as he was sidelined by a power failure at the end of the first exercise, which prevented him from participating in the second. He also fell against the stewards, who fined him for riding a moped on the track to get back in the bullets.

Things came to a head on Saturday. Less than happy with the balance of her car, the 11-hour FIA’s decision to remove one of the four DRS zones, confirmed shortly before the final exercise, throws another tensioner into the works.

After the first training session, Vettel did not set any other time until the qualification

“The frustrating bit was that we were informed quite late about the whole difference,” said team director Mike Krack. “There’s a big implication of this, because as soon as you remove the DRS zone there, we were worried we would get more oscillation problems.”

Aston Martin was not the only team to be affected in this way, Krack said. “You could see it in other cars too. I think the interesting bit was that no one ran in the first 15 minutes of the free training three. So there were a lot of people who had a bit of work to do. “

However, Vettel only managed a handful of out-laps before crashing. With teammate Lance Stroll also hitting the wall, Vettel’s participation in the qualifiers was in doubt. Ironically, he was only able to participate when Stroll’s repaired car was involved in a further crash in Q1, which caused a long interruption and Vettel’s mechanics were able to complete its reconstruction. That left him 17th on the grid.

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The race gave him at least the opportunity to log a significant number of laps in his car. But a rough afternoon came to an end for half distance.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Albert Park, 2022
Vettel ran for the eventual points scorer Albon

After qualifying close to the back, he was one of the few drivers who started the race on hard tires. As Alexander Albon demonstrated, a long stint could work on that rubber. But as Carlos Sainz Jnr demonstrated, they were also difficult to warm up.

Vettel fell in the ninth round, shortly after the first restart, missed with them, plowed the gravel at bend 11 and fell to last place. “Sorry about that,” he told his team on the radio.

“That was a big wind there Sebastian, bigger than the previous round,” advised his race engineer Chris Cronin, “30 km / h tailwind.”

When he tried to overtake his teammate and the rest of the tail-enders, Vettel told his team that the car “felt a little on the nose due to the high-speed, undermining medium-speed.”

Towards round 22, drivers began to pit in front and get into Vettel’s mirrors. Albon, who went one point, was just two seconds ahead. But Vettel would not get it at the checkered flag.

On lap 23, he ran at bend four fraction wide, lost power over his car on the exit side and was spit on the barrier on the inside. The utter contempt in his voice as he got ready to get out of his car spoke volumes.

Vettel has been going through difficult times in recent years. His last season at Ferrari was a gloomy season marked by a growing number of unforced errors.

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His first season at Aston Martin last year started unpromisingly but improved, eventually delivering a second place finish in Baku plus another on-the-road in Hungary he lost after a technical break. But the combination of a forced absence due to Covid-19 plus a problematic car made more difficult by the late DRS changes in Melbourne added to a tough first weekend back.

Mike Krack, Aston Martin, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2022
Krack has full confidence in Vettel

Krack, who was Vettel’s race engineer when he arrived in F1 16 years ago, has confidence in his driver, and believes the team should look at the equipment it gives him.

“We’re really taking some of it off,” he said after the race. “I’m glad Seb is fine, first of all after all these incidents.

“But I think if someone like him, a four-time world champion, has these problems he had this weekend, and this is not because of not driving, because he drove the car. This is something we really need to do. look at what car we deliver to him, what feedback he gets from the car.

“Because, you will agree with me, that he is as absent as he has been this weekend is not normal and I do not think this has to do with having races. He has been a multiple winner in Melbourne, he know where he is here.He has done some tests with the car, so I think it would be really easy to say he was not there for two weekends.

“A driver of that class, we really need to control what tools we give him.”

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