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Aston Martin

Aston Martin's Mid-Season Report Card: Vettel easing into control

With the teams all now on their mid-term breaks, it's time to look at their first half performances and hand out their grades. Let's take a look at Aston Martin..

Vettel Hungary 2021
To news overview © Aston Martin

It's an unusual driver situation at Aston Martin, given that Lance Stroll's father owns the team. While Stroll has proven himself to be a solid, if unspectacular, choice in recent years, the signing of Sebastian Vettel had the potential to be a particularly troublesome one – potentially upstaging the young Canadian.

On the face of it, Vettel hasn't quite managed to dominate Stroll so far this season, but there are indications that he is slowly managing to take the leadership role at the team. Brought in to teach an inexperienced team 'how to win', Vettel has pounced on the opportunities that have opened up to him and has scored thirty points to Stroll's eighteen. If he gets back his Hungarian GP second place, Vettel will have scored more than double what Stroll has achieved.

The good news for Stroll is that, obviously, he wouldn't be in any danger of losing his seat even if he was 'underperforming' in the eyes of the team.

Disappointingly for Aston Martin, their high rake concept car was one of those most badly affected by the downforce changes over the winter, and the car is now solidly mired in the midfield. There have been signs of improvements, and Vettel probably could have beaten Esteban Ocon at almost any other track last weekend in Hungary, and the potential is there for a strong second half of the season.

Grade: C

Aston Martin's decision to copy the Mercedes W10 design for 2020 has backfired for this season, given the carried-over rules and a seemingly fundamental lack of understanding of the high rake philosophy.

From next season, that won't be an issue, but that decision in 2019 has resulted in a more painful 2021 season than perhaps originally anticipated. The team are still in with a chance of being able to rescue fifth place, but it will be a tough ask against Alpine and AlphaTauri.

High point:
With Hungary's result still unconfirmed, the obvious candidate is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel's great drive on an alternative strategy looked set to yield him a strong points finish until problems for Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton opened up the door to the podium.

Stroll, too, had been on a strong run and looked set to join Vettel in the points at that race, until his tyre exploded in terrifying fashion.

Monaco was another great day for the team, with Vettel putting in his first eye-catching performance for Aston Martin by claiming fifth after an aggressive undercut, while Stroll came home in eighth place not far behind.

Low point: Austria. Aston Martin were just plain slow at the Austrian Grand Prix, with neither driver able to break into the top ten. Stroll's race was compromised by starting on the soft tyre before getting mired in the midfield, while Vettel was set to just miss out on some points before being taken out by Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap.

With no performance or points, the only thing the team picked up that day was a hefty repair bill.

			© Aston Martin
	© Aston Martin

Sebastian Vettel: A driver reborn

Sebastian Vettel has assumed the mantle of the driving force of Aston Martin, using his experience and wiliness to capitalise on opportunities as they arise.

Given how far Vettel's star had fallen at Ferrari, it's immensely heartwarming to see the likeable German's smile return in the less pressured environment of his new team.

Of course, he hasn't been perfect. There have been silly mistakes and accidents, too, with a 2020-spec spin at Silverstone dooming him to an anonymous race. A stupid accident with Esteban Ocon in Bahrain also must have caused a few smirks at Ferrari but, after a few quiet races, Vettel is performing more often than not as the season has progressed.

Grade: B-

Sebastian is rediscovering his mojo at a team with a very different culture and environment to what he withered in over the past few years. While still not perfect, his confidence appears to be returning. Can Vettel re-harness his inner shark in the second half of the year?

Lance Stroll: A slow upstaging from his teammate

Given the distinct possibility that a team could do everything in their power to ensure the bosses' son isn't upstaged by the new arrival, it's been good to see that both the team and Lance Stroll are accepting Vettel's current form with grace.

Stroll has had some moments of misfortune this season, with the biggest one being his tyre failure in Azerbaijan that almost certainly cost him a good points finish. But, with fewer retirements, Stroll's best position so far this season has been a handful of eighth places. He has been more consistent than what Vettel has managed, although the German has managed higher highs.

Of course, given Vettel's pedigree, it's expected that Sebastian would eclipse Stroll. It's now a case of waiting to see whether the gap between them becomes a gulf and, therefore, a headache for Lawrence Stroll, or whether Lance can keep within range of what Vettel manages.

Grade: C

Lance has been outshone, although not by an unfortunate amount, by Sebastian in the first half of the season. But he hasn't shown any signs of frustration or dissatisfaction with the situation, and appears willing to learn from his illustrious teammate.

His attitude, considering his position with his dad owning the team, is meritorious and, if he has the talent to put into practice what he learns from Vettel, he could finally shake off the somewhat unfair stigma about him.

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