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Formula 1 Szafnauer: “Will see ‘old’ Sebastian”

Szafnauer: “Will see ‘old’ Sebastian”

A new era in Formula 1 began for Sebastian Vettel last week: his new Aston Martin AMR21 was presented. With the James Bond brand, the German wants to find his way back to old strength

F.A new era in Formula 1 began for Sebastian Vettel (33) last week: his new Aston Martin AMR21 was presented. With the James Bond brand, the German wants to find his way back to old strength. ABMS spoke with his new team boss Otmar Szafnauer, who also led the Aston Martin predecessor teams Force India and Racing Point, about Vettel’s new chapter in the premier class.

Otmar Szafnauer, after 61 years Aston Martin is back in Formula 1. What does that mean for you?
Otmar Szafnauer:
The team, which comprises more than 500 men and women, are incredibly proud to bring the iconic Aston Martin brand back into the premier class of motorsport as a works team. We give everything to prepare the car for the racetrack and to provide our drivers with the best possible weapons. We have set ambitious goals for 2021 and beyond. Of course, the pressure will increase and other things will also change. Aston Martin is a traditional brand. I am a huge fan of James Bond. We want to represent the brand in a dignified manner.

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Sebastian Vettel has maneuvered himself into a downward spiral at Ferrari. You are now a kind of football coach who has to help him find his way back to old strength. How do you want to proceed?
I don’t think Sebastian Vettel has ever forgotten how to move a racing car quickly. True, old age can work against you – it makes you slower physically and mentally. But at 33 he is still far from the point of his life and career.

Szafnauer wants to treat Vettel fairly

This means?
The simple secret is to treat him as all of our parents taught us: with respect, honesty, integrity. By involving him, helping him, and working with him on common goals. That’s all it takes. Sebastian is a hard worker, he turns every stone. Qualities that also apply to us as a team. We’re racers, he’s a racer. That just fits! He already feels very comfortable with us and is extremely motivated. Not to prove something to his critics, but because he wants to prove it to himself. So I am very confident that we will see old Sebastian again.

Will Vettel have number 1 status as a former world champion?
We haven’t had number one or number two since I’ve been here. We treat both drivers, Lance Stroll and Sebastian, equally. Always.

Vettel was already at the Silverstone plant. What was your impression of him?
We’ve already spent some time together. It was mainly about the seat rehearsal. The goal was to make sure that he was ergonomically comfortable in the car. He also drove in the simulator and we got good feedback on his preferences in the car, the position of the buttons on the steering wheel and the set-up. On top of that, he loves British humor, he’s really great to work with.

Szafnauer: "Will see 'old' Sebastian"

Sebastian Vettel

© Aston Martin

Speaking of set-up: At Ferrari, he was mainly struggling with an unstable rear end. What can he expect in your car?
All of our previous drivers have always wanted a car with a stable rear end. That is why this property is in the DNA of our cars. Sebastian should of course benefit from that.

Has he been able to tell you a few secrets from Ferrari or Red Bull?
He was actually able to tell us what things we do differently than the competition. We’re going to look at that now and improve in areas where it makes sense. Sebastian brings a lot of knowledge with him. All we have to do now is filter out the important things.

Victories as a goal

What are your goals for 2021?
We want to pick up where we left off last year – with the third fastest car in the field capable of fighting for podium places. We want to score more consistently than in 2020. We want to occupy a better place in the World Cup than last year (World Cup fourth in 2020; editor). And we want more victories. Last year we proved that you can win with the third-fastest car under certain circumstances (Sergio Perez’s victory in Bahrain; editor). If the chance presents itself, I certainly trust Sebastian too.

But Vettel can also be very demanding.
That doesn’t scare me. One of the reasons why we chose Sebastian is precisely this will to succeed, for which he also gives gas off the track. We do that too, by the way – this is the only way we have earned the reputation of fighting above our weight.

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Both the sports car brand Aston Martin and the team, which was called Racing Point until the end of 2020, have had financial difficulties in the past. Can that still be a problem?
A lot has changed since then. In Formula 1 we now have a fair distribution of income and a budget limit ($ 145 million; d. Ed.). We also belong to a consortium that can help out financially at short notice. And we have a number of partners. So I think those financially precarious days are behind us.

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