Sebastian Vettel says he is “at peace” with a bad season at Ferrari last year and is “excited” to start working with his new team from Aston Martin.
The four-time champion said he has “high expectations” as the Aston Martin name returns to F1 for the first time in 60 years.
Vettel said: “I’m not happy with last year in terms of performance – in part and my performance – but I accepted it.
“There are things that haven’t gone well, but I’m looking forward to this year.”
Vettel, who learned that Ferrari would leave him before last season even started, said Mercedes “had to be the favorite” for 2021 and that the Aston Martin – formerly known as Racing Point – had “unofficial, or perhaps the official target “concludes the third.
They were knocked out by McLaren in that position in the final race last season.
The champion goes on
Vettel, winner of 53 Grand Prix and one of the most successful F1 drivers of all time, said he had nothing to prove after his disappointing last two years at Ferrari, in which he was surpassed by teammate Charles Leclerc.
And he said he is confident he is still capable of winning another championship if he has a car for it.
“It’s no secret that I wasn’t the happiest in the stages last year,” Vettel said. “I am really looking forward to it this year.
“Things are a little different, but from what I’ve seen, people are very capable and talented and it’s the first time in years that they get oxygen to breathe.”
That remark is a reference to the increased budget the team received from owner Lawrence Stroll, as well as to the fact that the budget constraint was first introduced in F1 this season.
Why is Aston Martin in F1?
The new car was unveiled online with contributions from celebrities such as James Bond, actor Daniel Craig and NFL star Tom Brady.
Canadian billionaire Strollrescued what was then known as Force India from the administration and renamed it Racing Point.
The 61-year-old took over the historic but torturous Aston Martin sports car company and decided to rename his F1 team after the brand to promote it around the world.
Stroll told BBC Sport in January that his ambition was to turn around the team he owns in the title contenders and at the launch he said that “the team’s ambitions were unlimited”.
Vettel’s teammate Lance Stroll, Lawrence’s son, paid tribute to the transformative effect his father had on the team, which until his takeover was significant for over-achieving in one of the smallest budgets in the network.
Lance Stroll said: “He has given tools to incredibly talented people in the factory. Now we can move forward and exciting times are ahead of us.
“There’s potential to fight ahead, maybe even challenge Red Bull. Mercedes will be very tough because they’re a little further down the road and hopefully we can widen the gap in the teams we fought last year.”
Vettel described Stroll as “very fast” and said that some of the criticisms the Canadian receives, which are often based on the fact that he drives for his father’s team, “were not fair”.
How’s the car?
Technical director Andrew Green and team director Otmar Szafnauer said they believe it will take between three and five years to build the team into title candidates.
Vettel said: “It is a journey that everyone wants to go on, but we do not expect to come tomorrow.
“If we do, I don’t think anyone minds. But it won’t be that easy.”
The Aston Martin is very reminiscent of Mercedes – as was the Racing Point 2020.
It features a 2020 Mercedes gearbox and rear suspension, which Aston Martin buys from world champions, along with its engine and the use of its air tunnel.
This suspension was considered a major development step for Mercedes last year because of the amount of potential aerodynamic thrust it unlocks, and could prove the same for Aston.
The fact that Aston Martin was allowed to take over the rear of the Mercedes in 2020 was a controversial topic last year, as development restrictions were imposed on teams this year for cost-saving reasons.
Rivals bought Aston these parts from Mercedes as a “free” upgrade when others were limited to just two “tokens” on changes to the car’s mechanical parts, but the FIA governing body dismissed their appeals.
Aston Martin was able to spend his two chips on top of the suspension change and decided to update the car’s monocoque. As such, their car is likely to be a bigger change from last year’s design than any other online.
Green said the team was confident they would be able to give Vettel a car that had steering characteristics that allowed him the best results.
He added that he believes the team’s new car, which is set to perform for the first time at a brief test in Silverstone on Thursday, and both drivers risked behind the wheel, is “a solid foundation for elaboration”.