If only things were like they used to be. Sebastian Vettel, a winning driver. It started with a team based just 20 kilometres from Imola. The present does not look good, the future is more open than ever.

Sebastian Vettel knows the area around the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. He knows it very well. He has very good memories of it. Faenza is the home of the team with which Vettel celebrated his first victory in Formula 1. The beginning of a success story. Toro Rosso has now become Alpha Tauri, Vettel a four-time world champion. A 53-time Grand Prix winner who celebrated the last of his successes in a Ferrari. But that was a long time ago.

And while Ferrari’s period of sporting obscurity seems to have come to an end and the tifosi are dreaming of red festivals this weekend before the home race in Emilia Romagna, Vettel’s return to a familiar place seems like a painful reminder of former glory. And what’s worse: Unlike Ferrari, which had most inelegantly discarded the now 34-year-old, Vettel’s form curve with Aston Martin continues downwards.

Aston Martin and Vettel seek solutions

The list of shortcomings after the disastrous Australian Grand Prix was long. The car is slow, it’s difficult to drive. “There are many things we want to improve, but we don’t have the solutions yet,” said Vettel. Honest, sobering.

Surer: ” … then I see black”.

He also had to add his performance to the list of mistakes. Crash in practice, crash in the race. “He simply doesn’t want to realise that the car can’t go faster. He then drives too fast and flies out,” former Formula 1 driver Marc Surer told the portal “formel1.de”: “If he realises that the car doesn’t go faster, I see black.”

Vettel is looking forward to the sprint race

The fact that Vettel had missed the first two races due to a Corona infection was probably not conducive to the process of getting to know the AMR21. In Imola there will be little opportunity for further testing. The programme is tight. Only one practice session, then qualifying on Friday. The first sprint race of the season is scheduled for Saturday. And Vettel is looking forward to it. “I’m curious to see how it will go,” he said.

In general, Imola, which only returned to the racing calendar in 2020 after 14 years, is a track entirely to Vettel’s taste. A test for driver and car – “and that’s how every Formula 1 circuit should be,” he stressed. Driving the current cars on the circuit was also like a little trip back in time to the 1980s, “which is cool”, Vettel said.

Ferrari extends with Vettel successor Sainz

He will also have to stay cool. Enduring defeats has become a necessary must for Vettel. In September 2019, Vettel celebrated his last victory to date, in Singapore. Instead of a great success story, the Ferrari relationship became a sporting misunderstanding. Vettel’s departure was clear well before the end of the 2020 season. Ferrari brought in Carlos Sainz. This Thursday, the Scuderia announced the extension of its cooperation with the 27-year-old Spaniard.

Until 2024, the current third in the world championship will initially drive for Ferrari together with the current world championship leader Charles Leclerc. And Vettel? Even the former team founder and current president of the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Giancarlo Minardi, recently advised him to retire. “He has a lot of money, he has won titles, but he won’t win any more,” he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.