Tuscan Grand Prix – Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer says that signing Sebastian Vettel will help the team take a step forward, thank to his winning experience.
With Sebastian Vettel signed up for Racing Point for 2021 in place of the axed Sergio Perez, team boss Otmar Szafnauer has explained some of the decisions that were made behind the scenes to bring about the switch.
Speaking at the FIA Press Conference on Friday, Szafnauer said that it was genuinely a tough decision to make due to the strength of Perez’ performances over the seven years he’s had with the team.
“Well, we took a bit of time to make the decision between Sergio and Sebastian which just goes to show what a great job Sergio has done for us for the last seven years.” said Szafnauer.
With the team now owned by Lawrence Stroll and becoming the Aston Martin works team for 2021, Szafnauer explained that Vettel’s experience of winning races and championships was the key ingredient needed for the team to give him the nod over Perez: “However with Aston Martin coming in, and a bit of financial backing behind the team, a new factory happening in Silverstone, improving the team, adding twenty per cent more personnel, we’ve got some infrastructure too, that we’re embarking on to make this go faster, and therefore a driver like Sebastian who brings with him the experience of winning four World Championships and 53 races can only be beneficial for us. And he will help us take that next step that we all need to take in the coming years such that we can consistently race among the top three, top four teams.”
Sergio Perez said on Thursday that he was completely blindsided by being dropped from the team, saying he hadn’t been told a thing ahead of the phone call from Lawrence Stroll telling him the bad news, but Szafnauer says that Sergio is muddling the truth a bit by saying this: “We did keep Sergio up to date as well as his manager Julian. When the decision is a difficult one, and it hasn’t been made, there really isn’t much more that you can say. So yeah, I don’t think we could have said anything more, otherwise we’d be guessing what the future was.”
Praising Perez for his on-track abilities and what he would bring to another team, Szafnauer said: “Well, he’s got loads of experience. He’s a tenacious racer come Sunday, he’s a good qualifier. Rarely makes mistakes, brings home the points and if there’s a sniff of a podium, he’s usually there. We are giving away quite a bit and I wish Checo the best of luck. He deserves to be in Formula 1 and I hope he can find a spot and we’re racing against him next year.”
With the Vettel rumours swirling for the last couple of weeks, there had been some suggestion that the delay was due to Lawrence Stroll trying to decide between ditching his son Lance or Sergio. Otmar explains that dropping Lance was never an option: “Lance has been with us for a couple of years. He’s a young man at 21 years old and yeah, his father does own the team, so when he look to make a driver change, because Sebastian became available, it would have been Checo. Like I said before, there are options in his contract and those options didn’t exist for Lance.”
With Vettel’s form currently in the doldrums as he and Ferrari’s time together draws to an end, Szafnauer was asked whether Racing Point have any concerns over whether they can bring back ‘old’ Sebastian – the version that won four world titles with Red Bull Racing.
“I don’t think he’s forgotten how to drive,” said Szafnauer. “We all need a little bit of love sometimes, and to drive on your very edge all the time, it is a mental exercise and if your mind isn’t quite in it, then things like that happen. It will be our job to put our arms around him and show him what this team is about and I think he will flourish with us.
“What makes us confident he’ll return to the Seb of old? He’s 33 years old, he’s still in the prime of his career, he’s got a vast amount of experience, he’s still highly motivated to do well. He works really hard and we believe with our team and what we want to take it to and the level that we want to get to Seb’s a perfect fit for that and I’m confident that he’ll race well. We’ve always allowed our drivers to race each other and that’ll be the same in the future.”