Sebastian Vettel will lead Aston Martin’s new F1 programme next year. The speculation began before the season, from the moment the announcement came that the Vettel-Ferrari partnership would not continue beyond this year. There was no place at the Scuderia for the four-time champion. No place at Mercedes or Red Bull, either.
But Racing Point? With Aston Martin branding from next year as befitting its new identity under the ambitious ownership of multi-billionaire Lawrence Stroll? The Racing Point’s strong form in the early part of this season further encouraged Vettel. Stroll saw the marketing dream of a multiple champion leading the new Aston Martin programme and is said to have been the driving force behind making it happen.
Which – with one car driven by Lance Stroll, the boss’ son – obviously meant there would be no place there for Sergio Pérez, who has delivered some great results over his seven years there.
Pérez tried to ignore the rumours, but knew the reality. He waited, knowing that the deadline of any triggering of the release clause in his contract was fast approaching. On the eve of that day – Wednesday, pre-Mugello – the release clause was triggered. “I got a call from Laurence just telling me they’d decided to go in a different direction,” he said.
There are other teams keen on him, but not necessarily ones he’d want to drive for. Just as the team he was driving for was on the verge of something big, he’s less than enthusiastic about fighting further back. Asked if Red Bull could be interested, Helmut Marko said, “As long as Alex Albon keeps improving there’s no need for Sergio Pérez at Red Bull.” McLaren’s Zak Brown has already said he would be very keen to explore IndyCar options with him.
For Vettel, it’s the chance to extend his career and not have it peter out under the difficult Ferrari circumstances of this year.