Column | Is a dangerous rivalry occurring at Aston Martin?

30-09-2021 10:42 | Updated: 30-09-2021 11:53
Column | Is a dangerous rivalry occurring at Aston Martin?

Twice in two races, the green machines have come together on the circuit; a nightmare scenario for any team. Is there a negative situation evolving for the Silverstone squad?

What’s happened?

There seems to be a growing number of instances where the two Aston Martin cars are coming to wars on track, ending up compromising one another or causing some sort of damage to the car. In the Italian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel ran close to the back of his teammate Lance Stroll through the Lesmo corners, upsetting his momentum and causing him to be overtaken by two other cars. The duo came together once more for the Russian Grand Prix, this time with Stroll coming off worse, damaging his front wing. However, the air was cleared up, with Vettel stating “I guess it was a misunderstanding.”

While it is likely that these are simple mishaps if they were to continue it would cause some very uncomfortable conversations with senior management and other stakeholders. Here’s how things are likely playing out.

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The case for Stroll 

Lance Stroll currently has the team well and truly around him. After coming into the Silverstone squad in 2019 he has applied himself to the project, assisting in the development of the car to try and push to the front of the midfield. His stature in the team is unquestionable and he looks to be a driver for the long term in Aston Martin. He would wish to be and likely will be the leader of the team, with longevity guaranteed in his position. Being the son of the headline owner, he undoubtedly has special privileges. However, in these instances, wheel to wheel action must be assessed in an unbiased manner to ensure that excessive risks aren’t taken in between teammates. 

The case for Vettel 

Sebastian Vettel is a man on a journey of rebirth. His tenure at Ferrari ended at a considerable low, leading to a hot topic coming into this season as to whether he would recover. After a slow start to the season, he’s been able to make strides, securing two second-place finishes (one of which was stripped away due to post-race fuel technicality). Vettel is likely to help the team push forward for the next few years, which will be critical for the coming regulations. Racing in two championship-winning teams would have provided him with the experience to push forward and maximise the Aston Martin package. Yet, the German does recognise that his time in Formula One is limited and may soon come to an end. Aston Martin may well and truly be his final project within the sport. The last thing that is needed is for his limited time to be hindered by his own teammate, let alone his competition.

What now?

There is a reason why “not crashing into one’s teammate” is considered a golden rule. Compromising the team’s ability to secure a point-scoring finish for both cars in one fell swoop is a difficult thing to stomach, especially for a midfield team. Aston Martin will not be able to afford their successes to derail with an inter-team rivalry, especially in a phase where they are growing exponentially in headquarters and personnel to better meet the future regulations.

One thing is for certain: if both drivers become hostile to one another, the situation will never be solved. We saw that well enough with Force India’s dramas between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez. Aston Martin severely lacks an experienced hand needed to resolve the matter, such as Alain Prost and Alpine, which would help provide a seasoned adjudicator or mentor to help negotiate and solve the matter individually or in a collaborative manner.

It may seem like something insignificant now, a problem that hasn’t even fully sparked. But when it comes to drivers and their egos, hopes and passions, everything can go out wrong very quickly. Thankfully, it still seems far from that. The team would be hoping mostly to avoid any similar incidents from occurring again. However, if the situation does devolve, the team would need to set clear boundaries or a hierarchy, whether the drivers wish for it or not. This will help the team progress the cars in their fights up the field, rather than squabbles between each other. 

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