‘Relentless’ Sebastian Vettel lauded for influence on surprise F1 2023 package

Oliver Harden
Sebastian Vettel in conversation at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Goodwood, July 2023.

Sebastian Vettel in conversation at the 2023 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Aston Martin’s Tom McCullough has praised Sebastian Vettel’s impact on the team’s improved fortunes in the F1 2023 season, expressing regret that the four-time World Champion did not reap the benefits himself.

Vettel joined Aston Martin from Ferrari in 2021 following the team’s success with the so-called pink Mercedes the previous year, but was limited to just a single podium finish in two seasons in green.

The German brought the curtain down on his glittering career at the close of the 2022 campaign, with the team hitting new heights in 2023 with Vettel’s replacement Fernando Alonso.

Sebastian Vettel credited for Aston Martin’s F1 2023 rise

Alonso emerged as the dominant Red Bull team’s closest threat at the start of the season, registering six podiums in the first eight races and adding two more following the summer break at Zandvoort and Interlagos, with Aston Martin finishing fifth in the Constructors’ standings.

Despite his limited success on track, the team’s performance director McCullough believes Vettel had a transformational effect on Aston Martin through his title-winning knowhow, attention to detail and his ability to gauge the car’s weaknesses.

According to RacingNews365, McCullough said: “When he joined us he came from two Championship-winning teams. At that time, he brought a lot of small details. He was a relentless worker as well.

“We often say the drivers are the best sensor in the car [when] a lot of the development you’ve got [includes] wind tunnels, simulators, offline simulation, CFD.

“A driver whose backside is connected to the car can say: ‘This is the phase of these kinds of corners that I know we’re struggling maybe more than others.’

“That allows you to go dig into the data. We didn’t give him a good enough car over the two years he was here. By the end of his second year, we were making progress.”

McCullough likened Vettel’s situation to that of Rubens Barrichello, whose hard work with Williams over the course of 2010/11 went unrewarded when he was dropped by the team for 2012.

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Pastor Maldonado went on to claim Williams’ first victory since 2004 at that year’s Spanish Grand Prix, holding off home favourite Alonso – then of Ferrari – to win in Barcelona.

He explained: “I felt for [Vettel] that he’s not really got any of the benefits of this year’s car. Over the years that often happens. I’ve been involved with that process myself in the past.

“At Williams, when we had Rubens Barrichello driving for us, he put so much work during the 2010 and 2011 seasons as far as to say: ‘This is what you need to do, this what you should be doing now on so many areas of the car.’

“The 2012 car, which unfortunately he didn’t end up driving, was the result of a lot of the hard work that he had done.”

In August, Vettel insisted he was not jealous of Alonso’s success in 2023 – insisting he was happy for both team and driver – but did concede his retirement would be easier to handle if this year’s Aston Martin was “total rubbish.”

However, after qualifying for this year’s Australian Grand Prix, Alonso himself openly doubted whether Vettel would have been capable of taking Aston Martin to such heights in 2023.

Asked in Melbourne if Vettel has retired so soon given the rate of Aston Martin’s rise, Alonso replied: “I don’t know if he could have made the Aston Martin that fast, so you never know.”

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