Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel will headline Aston Martin’s works Formula 1 team in 2021, when he replaces outgoing Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.
Vettel had intended, and expected, to stay with Ferrari beyond 2020 but was surprised to learn during the coronavirus pandemic-enforced hiatus that Ferrari did not want to keep him as it signed Carlos Sainz Jr to partner Charles Leclerc instead.
The Racing Point/Aston Martin project quickly emerged as his best option as Mercedes distanced itself from a move for the Vettel and Red Bull closed the door to his return.
He has now been confirmed on what is expected to be a multi-year contract as Vettel always said he was interested in committing to a new project, and three-year deals have been his preference in F1.
“I have been impressed with the results the team has achieved this year and I believe the future looks even brighter” :: Sebastian Vettel
“I am pleased to finally share this exciting news about my future,” said Vettel. “I’m extremely proud to say that I will become an Aston Martin driver in 2021.
“It’s a new adventure for me with a truly legendary car company. I have been impressed with the results the team has achieved this year and I believe the future looks even brighter.
“The energy and commitment of Lawrence [Stroll, team chairman] to the sport is inspiring and I believe we can build something very special together.
“I still have so much love for Formula 1 and my only motivation is to race at the front of the grid. To do so with Aston Martin will be a huge privilege.”
Vettel said he was also open to a sabbatical or retirement, and Racing Point tried to downplay speculation Vettel could join by reiterating that Perez and Lance Stroll were under contract for 2021 – but, as expected, that has proven to mean little.
Racing Point expects its Aston era to develop into a programme that fights for victories when a budget cap is enforced from next season, income distribution becomes fairer and new technical rules are introduced in 2022.
The team thrived on a small budget in its Force India days and the investment from Stroll’s consortium has raised expectations further.
Vettel’s Ferrari spell descended into disappoinment with failed title bids in 2017 and particularly 2018, which was littered with errors.
“On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, Sebastian is one of the best in the world” :: Otmar Szafnauer
Those mistakes continued through 2019, when Vettel was outgunned by new Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, and 2020 has been the worst season of Vettel’s career to date thanks to Ferrari’s uncompetitive package.
Vettel has continued to make errors and has struggled more than Leclerc for much of this year but will bank on a new challenge in a better environment to help him return to form.
However, team boss Otmar Szafnauer believes Vettel remains one of F1’s greatest current drivers and is the perfect frontman for the Aston project.
“Everybody at Silverstone is hugely excited by this news,” said Szafnauer.
“Sebastian is a proven champion and brings a winning mentality that matches our own ambitions for the future as Aston Martin F1 Team.
“On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, Sebastian is one of the best in the world, and I can’t think of a better driver to help take us into this new era.
“He will play a significant role in taking this team to the next level.”