Aston Martin team boss Mike Krack has praised Sebastian Vettel's work ethic and attitude, despite enduring a very tough start to the 2022 Formula 1 season.
Vettel, who missed the first two races of the season after testing positive for COVID-19, returned to action in Australia two weeks ago. However, neither he nor the team had a good weekend, with the AMR22 proving tricky and uncompetitive throughout the Melbourne event.
After such a turbulent outing, and after three race weekends where Aston Martin have failed to score points, there was a minor boost for the team at Imola on Friday as Vettel made it into Q3 and will start Saturday's Sprint Qualifying from eighth on the grid.
"As you can imagine, after the first few races, it was a booster for morale," Krack told media, including RacingNews365.com, on Saturday.
"[It was] the first time I saw smiling faces yesterday, but it was only a spot of the moment.
"I think it was good to enjoy the moment yesterday, but today is another day. The problems are not disappearing overnight, but you have to enjoy the moment when it is the time to enjoy."
Asked whether the team will struggle for speed in the warm and dry conditions expected for Saturday's race, Krack affirmed that will be the case.
"I do not believe that the car is standing where they're supposed to stand, from a pure performance point of view," he explained.
"But that does not mean that we're not going to give a hard time to the people around us and behind us."
Will Vettel stay in F1 or go elsewhere?
With Vettel making headlines for all the wrong reasons in Australia, it prompted many commentators and pundits to speculate on his future in the sport as Aston Martin toil at the rear of the field.
The four-time World Champion's contract expires at the end of 2022, and he spoke on Friday about the possibility of continuing with the outfit past this season.
Admitting that "time will tell", Vettel said: "One day, there will be a day for all of us where this journey ends and some other journey will start, whatever that might be."
Given Aston Martin's current level of competitiveness, Krack was asked whether the team have a desire to retain Vettel and build up to a more competitive performance level.
"I'm not going to speak about contracts here," he said.
"But, obviously, if you have a driver like Sebastian Vettel, that you can keep motivated by giving him the car that deserves the quality of his driving, I think you would be foolish not to try to retain him.
"But I 100 per cent understand his comments. He wants to see progress. He wants to see the car moving forward, because he's not a driver that wants to fight for P18 or P16 or whatever.
"I fully understand his comments and it's up to us to deliver the tools needed for him to perform."
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What Vettel qualities have impressed Krack?
Krack has previously spoken about Vettel's strengths, having worked for BMW Sauber at the time when the German was first making a name for himself as a test and development driver with the Hinwil-based outfit.
Asked about 2022-spec Vettel's qualities, Krack said there are no weaknesses to be seen.
"He has a very competitive approach, despite the big success that he already had," he said.
"He has a very high work ethic that I really share, that I really appreciate.
"There is no time of the day when it's too late to work or to have some input. So, from that point of view, it's a pleasure to work with him because, first of all, he's what I described already, but then also he's a nice guy.
"He's a nice fellow and he understands where our limitations are at the moment, but he doesn't stop pushing and he is realistic about what we do.
"It's a matter of trying to merge what we think we have to do with what it is we have to do [by being] open, transparent, have good conversations and move on."
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