Gerhard Berger has no fears for Sebastian Vettel’s medium-term F1 prospects and believes he will overcome his Aston Martin teething problems.
Vettel has joined Aston Martin from Ferrari this year, aiming to reverse a slide over the last couple of seasons which resulted in him finishing 13th in the 2020 Drivers’ World Championship.
Hopes that the four-time former World Champion would be a renewed force this term were dealt an early setback during pre-season testing in Bahrain, where his running in the new car was badly affected by issues on two of the three days of track action.
A gearshift problem on the second morning and a loss of boost pressure on the third afternoon left the German feeling he was 100 laps short of the Aston Martin experience he needed going into the 2021 curtain-raiser, the Bahrain Grand Prix.
However, Berger does not think Vettel is in the midst of a decline that will bring an end to his illustrious Formula 1 career in the foreseeable future.
“Sebastian still has three or four good years ahead of him if he wants,” the 61-year-old Austrian, a winner of 10 F1 races, told formel1.de.
“First of all, it’s about getting on the podium regularly. Last year, the team won a race [as Racing Point via Sergio Perez] and with Sebastian Vettel as a driver they might have the chance to come close to victory more often.
“All in all, I think Sebastian can make a good impression there. We will see how good the team really is.”
Berger concurs with many F1 pundits who think Red Bull will sustain a proper fight at the front with Mercedes this season, but that in a head-to-head battle for the drivers’ crown Sir Lewis Hamilton may just edge out Max Verstappen due to his greater experience in such situations.
He also thinks Daniel Ricciardo will make a positive impact at McLaren, but that the Australian’s new team are likely to still find themselves behind Mercedes and Red Bull.
“McLaren will be interesting with Daniel Ricciardo,” Berger told Austrian outlet Kronen Zeitung.
“He’s good for two or three tenths, plus [they have] the Mercedes engine. It’s not enough for the Championship but I see them in third place.
“After that, it’s going to be wide open with Aston Martin, AlphaTauri and Ferrari, who can compete now and then.”