Sebastian Vettel secured his first podium of the season in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with the German claiming an excellent second place despite starting outside the top ten.
Just two weeks after taking his first points finish of his Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team career, Vettel was back to his best around the Baku City Circuit, making good passes and using a clever strategy to jump many of his rivals.
Vettel was on course for a fourth-place finish before Max Verstappen’s race at the front ended following a tyre failure moved him up to third, and Lewis Hamilton’s mistake at the restart saw him the German move up to second place.
The four-time World Champion was ecstatic following his podium finish, and although he was not expecting a podium finish after qualifying only eleventh, he was delighted with his pace and the performance of the AMR21.
“I am over the moon and P2 means a great deal to all of us,” said Vettel. “We did not expect to be on the podium, but we made great progress through the weekend, and the car had strong race pace.
“Yesterday was challenging [due to the red flag in qualifying], but I was relaxed and confident going into the race. The key was being able to start with a free choice of tyres in P11. It meant we could use a new set of softs to make up two places at the start and then run longer to overcut Yuki [Tsunoda].
“It gave us a platform for the second half of the race and put us in a position to take advantage. I felt good in the car, and combined with on-track events and strategy, we were able to get a really special result.”
“There was no sign of any issues, so we need to investigate” – Lance Stroll
Whereas there were celebrations on Vettel’s side of the garage, there was disappointment for team-mate Lance Stroll, with the Canadian finding himself out of the race through no fault of his own.
Stroll was attempting a similar strategy to his team-mate but was pitched into the wall on the start and finish straight after an issue with his tyre. He was just a passenger as, at high speed, he hit the wall hard to bring out the safety car.
Despite the heavy hit, Stroll emerged unscathed, but the Canadian was downbeat as he felt a top ten finish was on the cards, particularly looking at the pace of team-mate Vettel up front.
I am frustrated not to finish the race, but I am OK,” said Stroll. “We were on course to score good points by running much longer before the pit stops and overcutting a lot of cars.
“That proved it was the right call to start on the hard tyres because we had good pace throughout the first stint and the race was coming to us.”
Stroll admits there was no warning to his tyre failing, so there are investigations to be done by both the team and Pirelli. However, he was delighted to see Vettel secure Aston Martin’s first podium in Formula 1.
“I am not sure what happened to cause me to spin on the straight because there was no sign of any issues, so we need to investigate,” said Stroll.
“It has been a challenging weekend for me, but there are positives to take, especially our race pace, and, of course, the podium for Sebastian. Huge congratulations to the whole team.”