Rallying legend Walter Röhrl says Aston Martin have a “duty” to help Sebastian Vettel through this difficult stage of his career.
Vettel departed Ferrari at the end of 2020 following a dismal campaign which saw him finish P13 in the Drivers’ Championship, but really the four-time World Champion’s struggles had begun a fair way before then.
Many trace Vettel’s decline back to his crash at the 2018 German Grand Prix while leading the race, a moment which swung the title fight heavily in Sir Lewis Hamilton’s favour that year, and ever since then Vettel has not operated on a level that could bring title success.
The move to Aston Martin for 2021 then was supposed to be a fresh start in a less pressurised environment.
The reliability issues in testing were not ideal for Vettel considering the schedule had already been slashed to three days in Bahrain, but the season-opener at the same venue really did then give cause for concern.
Vettel would fail to make it out of Q1 while team-mate Lance Stroll made the top-10 shootout for pole, and come race day while Stroll collected a point for P10, Vettel crossed the line down in P15.
Vettel and Röhrl first met in the paddock at the Australian Grand Prix 10 years ago, and ever since then Röhrl has been following his compatriot’s career in Formula 1.
“He is one of those drivers who has a special flair, drives a clean line and handles the car as gently as possible,” Röhrl wrote on his Facebook page.
“Surely he would have been a good rally driver. And he is the reason why I’ve been watching Formula One races again and I’ve been following his career closely.
Evidently a lot has changed for Vettel since those days at Red Bull when he was the dominant force in Formula 1, but Röhrl, a two-time World Rally champion, says that a driver of Vettel’s ability can not forget how to drive, and so it is Aston Martin’s “duty” to discover the real reason for his struggles.
“Such a talent has not forgotten how to drive. There must be reasons, both at Ferrari and now at Aston Martin, why it didn’t work out that way. Sebastian has not forgotten how to drive,” he told F1-Insider.com.
“I see it as the team’s duty to help him. With the right material, he can still win races and titles. There is no doubt about that. His critics should be aware of this.”
Vettel will have the chance to put his difficult Aston Martin debut in the rear-view mirror at the Made in Italy and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, round 2 of the 2021 Formula 1 season.