Photo credit: Unsplash
Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team scored their first haul of points for 2022 at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola in Round 4, ending their undesired points drought.
The team’s breakthrough comes as the looming threat of losing their 4-time World Championship winning driver Sebastian Vettel is reliant upon their ability to achieve healthy results week in and week out.
Vettel said recently in an interview with Planet F1 that Aston Martin’s ability to win championships, score points and fight for podiums are “the key things [he] will be looking at to see how promising it’s looking for the future and how soon [his decision will be made],” as his contract ends at the end of this year.
The German made it clear that his motivation to re-sign as an F1 driver is strongest when he and the team are “mostly interested in winning.”
In the opening two races of the 2022 season, Vettel was absent from the championship events due to contracting Covid-19 post-Bahrain testing, leaving teammate Lance Stroll lined up alongside Aston Martin Reserve Driver Nico Hulkenburg in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
At the Bahrain Grand Prix, Stroll came home in P12, while substitute driver Hulkenburg finished in P17, last of all cars left in the runnings. The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix told a similar story, with both Hulkenburg and Stroll crossing the line just outside of the points in P12 and P13 respectively.
The British racing team again experienced a nightmare weekend at the Australian Grand Prix in Round 3 despite the long-awaited return of Vettel, with both drivers crashing out multiple times across multiple sessions.
“After testing positive and missing the first two races, it feels a bit like arriving late to school,” Vettel had said in the Australian GP Press Conference on stepping back into the car for the first time in just under a month.
Lance Stroll’s collision with fellow Canadian and Williams Driver Nicholas Latifi resulted in a 3-place grid penalty, forcing him to start in P19. The Canadian’s drive was only good enough to earn him P12 at the chequered flag, an ideal result when compared to the DNF on the other side of the Aston Martin garage as on Lap 23 Sebastian Vettel crashed out at Turn 4.
At the conclusion of the Australian Grand Prix Weekend, Aston Martin sat lonesome in their pointless state as Williams managed to score 1 point with Alex Albon’s aggressive pit strategy.
“You have to have a quick car, you have to make no mistakes, you have to have good drivers. The whole thing is not together at the moment, so we have to really work hard to get there. There is no magic, at the end of the day,” Aston Martin Team Principal Mike Krack said in his post-race interview.
Despite the bad results and rumours of negative team culture, Vettel insisted that the team remains united in their fight this season, saying in his post-race interviews “there’s still a lot of work to do. But when it comes to the team, and the effort that’s going in, I would say that the spirit is unbroken.”
Imola’s Sprint Weekend format coinciding with the damp and rainy weather conditions at the circuit played strongly into the hands of Aston Martin.
In a weekend of firsts, FP1 laid the foundations of it all with Vettel finishing in P8 - 3.963 seconds off Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in P1, the first time an Aston Martin has finished in the top 10 of any session in 2022.
Qualifying, despite being plagued by red flags, saw Vettel up into Q3, another first for the team, leading him to start the Sprint Race in P9, with Stroll lining up in P15. These results earned them the starting positions of P13 and P15 for the Sunday.
Throughout the rainy 63-lap “unbelievable” race, Vettel and Stroll fought closely with the likes of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda. These opponents are all deemed to be quicker cars with quicker packages, however tyre temperatures, differing strategies and overall wet conditions saw the Aston Martin F1 Team reign supreme.
Notably, the British racing team was the only team to have both of their cars in the points, aside from Red Bull who earned themselves a 1-2 finish at their closest rival’s home race.
Sebastian Vettel finished in P8 contributing 4 points to the team, and Lance Stroll finished in P10 contributing 1 point, raising the team to P9 in the Constructors’ Championship and the drivers to P14 and P18 respectively in the Drivers’ Championship ahead of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix in Round 5.
Speaking of his drivers after the race with Formula 1 Media, Krack said “both Sebastian and Lance drove faultlessly in [Sunday’s] tricky wet-to-dry race. In wet conditions, Sebastian vaulted into ninth on lap one, then comfortably raced inside the top 10 for the whole race [...] Equally, Lance didn’t put a foot wrong this afternoon. He made a strong start, made up positions on the opening lap, and enjoyed a fantastic, spirited tussle with Tsunoda.”
“We [enjoyed] today but will continue to keep pushing for more in the coming races.” Stroll said post-Emilia Romagna GP with the Formula 1 Media team, Vettel adding that it was “nice to get off the mark and get points in the bag,” seeing the team then “looking forward to Miami.”
With this boost of confidence in the Aston Martin garage, sights shifted to the unknown of the Miami Grand Prix, which took place over the weekend.
The weekend didn’t favour the Aston Martin’s with both cars forced to start from the pitlane due to fuel heating issues. Additionally, Vettel’s car was involved in an incident with the Haas of Mick Schumacher, which pushed the 4-time World Champion out of the points. The German was forced to retire from the race, losing the momentum created from his previous outing.
Stroll originally finished in P11, however, due to a 5-second time penalty given to Alonso, the Canadian managed to bring home one point for his team, a welcomed earning after a forgettable outing for the Aston Martin racing team.