Otmar Szafnauer expects Aston Martin to make a flying start to the 2021 season – competing for podium positions right from the off.
The Silverstone-based team have undergone a transformation during the winter break, morphing from Racing Point to Aston Martin with green replacing pink as their branding colour – and, of course, Sebastian Vettel taking over from Sergio Perez in the driver line-up alongside Lance Stroll.
Aston Martin’s first race as an F1 constructor since 1960 will be the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28 – at the same venue where Perez won the penultimate event of last season, held on the venue’s shorter Outer track.
Despite some inconsistencies that blighted their season, Racing Point ended 2020 with some real high points that also included Stroll taking pole position in a wet Turkish Grand Prix qualifying session before leading for the first half of the race.
Team principal Szafnauer thinks it could be a happy return to Bahrain next month and that Aston Martin will be challenging at the sharp end – and also when the campaign heads back to Europe from April onwards.
“I think we should get out of the starting blocks quickly and fight for podium places,” said Szafnauer during an interview with Auto Motor und Sport.
“We want to start the season like we left off the last. If things go in our direction, like in Bahrain or Turkey, we should be able to put the car on pole position and have the chance of a few wins.”
However, the Romania-born American also stressed that the inconsistencies, which meant Racing Point were pipped by McLaren to third position in the constructors’ World Championship, need to be eradicated if they are to fulfil their full potential.
“We had the third fastest car for long stretches but we only finished fourth behind McLaren. We were unlucky,” said Szafnauer, whose team would have been third but for a 15-point penalty that was part of their punishment for the ‘copying Mercedes’ furore.
“I really think we just failed last year because of bad luck. We had two engine failures close together, one of them when we were in third place [Perez in the Bahrain GP]. Without that, we would have finished third in the World Championship.
“For us, it will be about smoothing out the downward swings. We need more consistency in scoring. If we can do that, we can be third. That has to be our realistic goal.”