Aston Martin have “no deadline” for when to decide Sebastian Vettel’s future as speculation grows that the team could seek to replace the four-time Formula One champion for next season.
Vettel has endured a somewhat frustrating start to 2022 in his second year at Aston Martin, where a poorly-performing car has restricted the German to just five Drivers’ Championship points all season.
A 10th-place finish at the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend made up for his last two races outside the points positions, which included a disappointing outing in Miami, where he started in the pit lane and ended the day bottom of the pack.
Technical issues with the car have arguably held the veteran back, and he has previously expressed his determination of one-day fighting again for race wins.
And with his contract expiring at the end of this year, speculation is growing over Aston Martin’s next move.
But according to team principal Mike Krack there is no succession plan in place.
“We’re trying to create the conditions for him to be able to use the talent he has,” Krack told n-tv. “If you see him in a debrief or on the phone, the way he gets involved – nobody drives like that who doesn’t want to drive.
“Nobody acts like that who doesn’t want it. It was a top performance from the first lap onwards (in Monaco).
“When you have someone like Sebastian, you have to try to keep him. It’s a mixture of extreme driving quality, experience and a very positive person who helps us progress.”
Krack admitted the team is monitoring all drivers in the sport, but added: “We clearly have our way that we want to continue with Sebastian. We’ll see about everything else at a later date.”
Who could replace Vettel?
Vettel agreed to join Aston Martin in September 2020 when his contract with Ferrari was winding down. Usually teams try and secure their drivers to further years during the summer break – the midway point of the season.
No doubt the team is already working on what to do if Vettel either proves too expensive to renew, or chooses to seek another team. One possible replacement being mooted is Mick Schumacher, currently driving in his second F1 campaign with Haas.
Schumacher – who escaped unhurt after his car tore in two during a crash at the Monaco Grand Prix – is yet to score a point in the sport and is a very rough diamond. But for Aston Martin – a team that wants to improve its footing and image in Germany – switching a veteran champion for a possible future one is tempting.
Asked about Schumacher’s performances, Krack said: “I don’t know enough about the details of his team and environment to judge.”
Elsewhere, there remains the question of where Fernando Alonso ends up once this season comes to a close. The Spaniard signed a one-year extension on his Alpine deal after finishing fourth in Hungary last August. At 40 the two-time world champion doesn’t seem interested in retirement – and Aston Martin could provide an alternative opportunity for one last stab at glory.
Australia’s Oscar Piastri is also attracting attention from F1 teams following his impressive results in F2 last year. Piastri, 21, is reserve driver for Alpine and McLaren. He appears happy to remain on the periphery of F1 for now, saying in February: “Even this year, while I won’t be in a race seat, there is still a lot I can learn, experience the pretty hectic schedule of a F1 season and help out behind the scenes and fully focus on F1 – as that’s where I want to get to in the future.”
Then there is the discussion of where Vettel goes if he decides to leave Aston Martin. The German said in April that his longevity at the team depends on how they respond to “the mountain ahead of us” in trying to improve Aston Martin’s AMR22 car.
“We will choose the path that we climb, which will determine the next three-four years – so that’s why I feel it’s really important to focus on that and it takes all the attention,” Vettel said. “And then one day there will be a day for all of us where this journey ends and some other journey will start – whatever that might be.”
For now, attention turns towards the Azerbaijan Grand Prix later this month, with Vettel 15th in the Drivers’ Championship and Aston Martin ninth out of 10 teams on the Constructors’ ladder.
Reacting to his 10th-place finish in Monaco, he said: “We learned more about the car, optimising the set-up with the new parts we introduced recently. All these steps are taking us in a good direction for the races to come.”