Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin debut ends with punishment from stewards

Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent, Bahrain
·2-min read

Sebastian Vettel’s calamitous Aston Martin debut concluded with him being punished by the stewards for a second time in as many days at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

After the quadruple world champion was thrown to the back of the grid – penalised for failing to slow under yellow flags in qualifying – he then crashed into Alpine’s Esteban Ocon during the race.

Vettel was hit with a 10-second penalty for the incident and two points on his licence, taking his tally for the weekend to five. He will be banned for one race if he accrues seven more over the next 12 months.

Sebastian Vettel crashed into the back of Alpine's Esteban Ocon in Bahrain
Sebastian Vettel crashed into the back of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in Bahrain (Kmaran Jebreili/AP)

The 33-year-old signed for the rebranded Aston Martin team in the hope of renewed glory following a dismal end to his six-season spell with Ferrari.

But he has appeared uncomfortable in his new machine. Even before his grid penalty, he was due to line up for Sunday’s race only 18th of the 20 runners.

Vettel took the chequered flag last but one, with just the son of his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher, debutant Mick, behind him on track.

Explaining his crash with Ocon, a deflated Vettel said: “I was sure he was leaving me space on the left, but then he crossed back and as soon as I was behind him I locked up and couldn’t avoid hitting him.

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“On the start, we positioned ourselves well but then I couldn’t make progress. We tried the one-stop strategy because we had to do something different. I was struggling with the tyres so we couldn’t have scored points anyway.”

Ocon revealed Vettel later apologised for the crash, with the stewards deeming the German “wholly responsible”.

Aston Martin headed back into the sport for the first time in 61 years amid much fanfare. The British team called on A-List stars, Daniel Craig, Tom Brady and Gemma Arterton for their launch earlier this month. Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll wants them to be world champions.

But away from Vettel’s problems, his team-mate and son of the owner, Lance Stroll, also failed to sparkle, starting and finishing in 10th place.

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Aston Martin have struggled to adapt to mandatory rule changes to the to the floors of the cars, which impacts downforce.

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer said: “It was important to mark Aston Martin’s return to Formula One with a finish inside the points and Lance drove an intelligent race.

“But it is clear the new regulations have impacted more negatively on teams such as ourselves. Sebastian’s race was always going to be tricky with him having to recover from the back of the grid.”