Otmar Safnauer, Head of Racing Point, which will become Aston Martin’s factory team from next year, spoke about their expectations for the arrival of Sebastian Vettel.
Q: Niko Hulkenberg drove your team’s car last weekend at the Nürburgring, and in 2021 another German driver will join you – has cooperation with the Germans become a kind of tradition?
Otmar Safnauer: That’s right, we had Nico Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil, and even earlier, when the team was called Jordan, its cars were piloted by Timo Glock, Nick Heidfeld, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, even Michael Schumacher. Pascal Wehrlein worked with us on the tests, and next year Sebastian will join.
We are looking forward to starting cooperation with him and hope that he will help us reach a new, higher level – the one to which he is used to working with large teams. I am sure that the four-time world champion will be able to show us how to work if you are aiming for victory. And we will help him get back in shape and show the skill that he has always distinguished. Therefore, the combination “Aston Martin – Vettel” must be successful.
Question: What exactly do you expect from him?
Otmar Safnauer: Sebastian has a lot of experience, although he is only 33 years old. And he knows how to win championships. I hope he will help our team find the right direction in which to develop and modernize the car. He knows how Ferrari and Red Bull Racing work and explains how their approach to the race weekend differs from ours.
It is not yet a fact that both of these teams perform better than Racing Point, but it makes sense to make a direct comparison to find the most effective methods of work. This will allow you to take the next step forward.
Q: Sebastian is a big fan of British racing culture, but to what extent is it inherent in your team?
Otmar Safnauer: This racing spirit is 100% part of our DNA. All this was laid back in the days of Jordan, so when the team became Force India, we inherited this mentality. We were able to stay ahead of teams whose budgets were twice ours. Sebastian will love working in such an atmosphere, it will help him regain his former strength.
In addition, Lance Stroll, a very young and thirsty for knowledge racer, has a lot to learn from Sebastian. If, in its first season, Aston Martin can regularly compete for points and podiums, it will be fantastic!
Q: You once said that we all need love, including the racers. Are you sure you can give Sebastian more love than a Ferrari?
Otmar Safnauer: It’s all about respect and how well we work together. We appreciate the talent of everyone and do not point a finger at anyone. Our people must learn from their mistakes, we set them up for this. We have a good working atmosphere, we all work together, and we don’t tend to blame anyone for mistakes. This also applies to the riders. Sebastian will love it and I am sure he will be successful with us.
Q: Maybe your car will suit him better than the Ferrari SF1000, the rear of which is too nervous?
Otmar Safnauer: Time will tell. But I think he will find an approach to our car. We also want to hear his opinion on the Mercedes engine. Niko Hulkenberg could compare our power plant with Renault, and Sebastian could compare it with Ferrari. All this is also useful information.
Q: In recent months, a lot of criticism has been heard against Sebastian. What is your belief in him based on?
Otmar Safnauer: I believe that a 33-year-old racer in a short time can not forget how to pilot a Formula 1. So, it’s something else.
Q: From 2021, Racing Point will change its name to Aston Martin. This brand is strongly associated with James Bond, but can fans expect the team to win?
Otmar Safnauer: Opportunities for upgrading the machine in preparation for 2021 are limited due to the pandemic and the corresponding amendments made to the rules. But at the moment our car is the third fastest, and in the course of the whole season, thanks to this, we will have certain opportunities to achieve success. Pierre Gasly was able to win the race this year behind the wheel of AlphaTauri.
I hope that we will have such opportunities, and in such situations we must be able to use them and attack. Sebastian, with his ability to feel how the situation is on the track, will be useful here too.
Question: Aston Martin is a famous brand, will it somehow affect the pressure?
Otmar Safnauer: Of course, the pressure will increase, but there will be many other changes. Aston Martin is a powerful brand with over a century of history. I am a big fan of James Bond films and we want to represent Aston Martin with dignity. But we have two great racers and a fast car, and Sebastian will help to unleash its full potential. We are well prepared.
Question: In 2021, budget restrictions will be introduced for the first time. Your team has always been able to work effectively, so you get an additional advantage?
Otmar Safnauer: This can really be an advantage. In any case, it is easier to grow a team than to reduce its size and capabilities. Our budget still falls short of the established maximum limit, while several other teams have yet to decide how they can save. All this will inevitably affect their results, respectively, it will only play into our hands.
Q: As well as the fact that your team will receive a new base and a new simulator …
Otmar Safnauer: Quite right. Our simulator is becoming an increasingly sophisticated tool, and soon we will get new opportunities for research and experimentation. We hope this will accelerate the pace of equipment modernization. And during the 2021 season, we will move to a new base, where there will be a new simulator. In the remaining races of this season, we will continue to fight in the middle of the peloton, and I am looking forward to working with the four-time world champion on the Aston Martin team next year.