“Contract announced, contract signed, never before.” This phrase is almost a law in Formula 1, and that is why no one dared to assert 100% that Sebastian Vettel he was going to stay in the paddock in 2021, even though everyone knew he had been negotiating with Racing Point to become his visible face in the new project as Aston Martin.
The problem is that the victim has been Sergio Perez. One of the only three drivers who has scored points in all the races he has participated in in 2020 (the other two are Lewis Hamilton and the one who replaced Checo, Nico Hülkenberg, because in the first race he did not start the car) has run out of place in Formula 1 and although it already has several doors open (Alfa Romeo, old Clean, has already called him to take the seat of Räikkönen or of Giovinazzi, who falls before), he cannot hide his disappointment at what he considers a betrayal.
Along the way there have been months of cross negotiations, calls between Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico and Spain. The story of Vettel’s signing for Aston Martin began long before the most successful German driver since Michael Schumacher left Ferrari. You have to leave two years ago.
Year 2018: Sergio Pérez puts the wolf in the henhouse
July 2018. The Force India team at that time was on the verge of bankruptcy, owing several months of salary not only to its drivers but also to its workers. ‘Checo’ Pérez at that moment made a daring decision: sue the team owners, with the controversial Vijay Maylla at the head, to force them to declare bankruptcy and allow a bankruptcy with which to pay off debts and find a buyer. And incidentally collect the 4 million they owed him.
Forced to sell, the Indian Maylla found himself in the consortium led by the billionaire Lawrence Stroll to your savior: thus was born Racing Point. Perez’s daring move had gone well, the Silverstone-based team (Jordan’s heir, Spyker, Midland …) was saved, and with it nearly 500 jobs.
The problem is that putting Stroll on the team has ended up being his undoing. Two years later, the Canadian mogul is largest shareholder of the legendary Aston Martin, whose entry into Formula 1 will be produced by renaming Racing Point. The need to give a strong tee shot to the new team requires a flashy signing forced to look at the market. Sportingly, the victim should be Lance Stroll, which does not give a sporting argument to continue (despite his recent podium at Monza) but it is the boss’s son. The guillotine fell on the head of Sergio Pérez, who without giving any reason on the track, has been out after the unexpected opportunity to take over Vettel.
The salvation of Sebastian Vettel
In January 2020, when that of the pandemic was a concept in a Hollywood movie, the coronavirus something that happened in China and masks were an element of the operating rooms, Vettel began to talk about its continuity at Ferrari. The relationship between both parties was very worn out after five years without the desired title and Charles Leclerc humiliating in his first year in red to a four-time champion.
The phones in Maranello began to set on fire and in one of those calls, someone who speaks Spanish as their mother tongue picked up the phone. It was not Carlos Sainz, directly, but one of his agents (from Fernando Alonso’s environment) who ended up closing the details for which the man from Madrid was going to become the third Spaniard in driving for the legendary Scuderia.
Vettel was suddenly without equipment. He tightened the rope with the Italians so much that they did not wait any longer and packed his bags. A four-time world champion, doomed to retreat, as he himself admitted in this GP of Tuscany in which 1,000 participations in the Formula 1 championship celebrate those in red.
Retirement for Seb?
– Formula 1 (@ F1) September 10, 2020
This is where the confluence of needs between Aston Martin and Vettel met. On the one hand, the team needed a guaranteed driver. On the other, the German a car seat that, at least, allowed him to dream of going back up. Although in 2021 he will not be fighting to win, if they hit the key for 2022 who knows … He did not have many more alternatives either.
The first meetings took place as soon as the World Cup started again, in Austria. A groping, which later became black on white, with crossed phone calls, messages, unobtrusive visits from Vettel to the Racing Point garage, taking advantage of the absence of journalists … And all this, with a Sergio Pérez whose back was beginning to itch like Julio César.
The betrayal of Pérez is consummated
The great victim of all this soap opera has been, therefore, Sergio Pérez. The Mexican took cover in his contract signed in 2019 until 2022 with the team that he himself had saved. “I am not afraid, I have a contract,” he said proudly when the rumors in the paddock spread behind him.
The clandestine operations began behind his back. Leaks such as that of the positive in coronavirus, statements ‘off the record’ talking about his lack of professionalism, public statements about that controversial trip to Mexico in which he was infected …
Just a few hours before stepping on Mugello, the Mexican received a call from Otmar Szafnauer, head of Racing Point. From what those who lived through that conversation say, the tone was not pleasant or calm. That led to a letter from Pérez in which he counts more in the blank spaces than in what he has written. The Strolls had betrayed him to get Vettel, while ‘Checo’ will now have to wait for someone to open the doors.
Publicly, Pérez claims that he found out at the time of that call. It is really impossible that he did not see the shadows moving around him or the whispers behind him.
To finish off his ‘horrible’ week, he will have to serve a sanction on Sunday at Mugello after being punished with a grid position for embestir to Kimi Räikkönen. Ironically, one of the drivers he can replace in 2021.