Sebastian Vettel is ‘finished’, racer claims – but is criticism of Aston Martin star fair?

F1: Vettel insists he can win races at Aston Martin

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“Sebastian Vettel is a finished man. It’s a very long time since he did anything good. He also makes many mistakes and looks like a man under pressure.” That was the opinion of one former race driver earlier this season, who doubted the German’s ability to still make an impact in F1 in 2021.

After enduring a difficult few years at Ferrari, especially in his final season when he was overshadowed by the team’s beloved starlet Charles Leclerc, Vettel embarked on a new chapter in his long career in the sport.

He is a four-time world champion from his highly successful spell with Red Bull, and has 53 race wins to his name.

But only one of those had come in his last two seasons with Ferrari, and Vettel only stood on the podium once in 2020 – very much a season to forget for the veteran.

There was never any question about his experience and pedigree in the sport, but would anybody take a chance on a man whose best days were clearly behind him?

The answer came in the form of Lawrence Stroll and Otmar Szafnauer, who wanted to put him in one of their newly-rebranded Aston Martin cars alongside the former’s son Lance.

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After the team’s success in 2020 as Racing Point, and with a more than capable replacement for the departed Sergio Perez at their disposal, many expected big things from those dark green cars heading into the current campaign.

One of those who wasn’t expecting fireworks from the German was former F3000 and Touring Car racer Jason Watt, who was quick to describe him as “finished” after only two races.

It was an inauspicious start for Vettel, who crossed the line 15th in Bahrain before a frustrating race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, in which he started from the pit lane due to a brakes issue and then suffered a gearbox problem towards the end.

But despite that bad luck, Danish driver Watt was quick to stick the boot in.

“I don’t know if he can keep it up mentally,” he said. “I do hope he stays the year, because he’s probably clinging to the hope that things will start to go his way all of a sudden.”

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He also pointed out that the team may keep him around regardless of results as his stature in the sport is attractive to advertisers.

It didn’t take long for Vettel to enjoy a couple of much improved results after that, though.

A fifth-placed finish in Monaco saw him score his first points for Aston Martin at the fifth attempt, and in the next race he claimed his first podium, coming home second in Azerbaijan.

Two more points followed in France and it looked as though he was going to be a regular sight in the top 10 as the season progressed.

He did not finish in Austria or at Silverstone, but crossed the line second again in Hungary to secure another really good result for Aston Martin – or so they thought.

Stewards were unable to get a litre of fuel from his car after the race and so Vettel was disqualified on technical grounds – a decision the team later appealed before withdrawing their complaint.

Only six more points have followed, though his total of 36 so far is 10 more than his team-mate and, had he not been disqualified in Budapest, he would be knocking on the door of the top 10.

So accusations that he is “finished” seem unfair on the German, particularly considering he is outperforming some others on the grid who have been praised this season.

But Aston Martin’s form in the second half of the season has been concerning, and ambitious team owner Stroll Snr will want to see improvements sooner rather than later.

Vettel is signed on to continue with the team in 2022, when all his experience will one again be vital as they and the rest of the grid enter a new era for the sport with a swathe of technical rule changes.

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