Vettel enjoyed a strong showing at the Circuit of The Americas once again in 2022, in a track in which he scored points in all his visits bar 2019 – when the suspension of his Ferrari broke down early in that race.
The German raced his way to the top-8 by the chequered flag, but could’ve scored a sixth place finish had his final pit stop of the race gone to plan. He pitted from second place after leading the race for a couple of laps – his first time in the lead since the 2021 Hungarian GP. The team struggled to fit his left-front tyre and it resulted in a pit stop that clocked just over 11s, meaning the German dropped from a net-sixth place to 13th place and right in the middle of a huge battle between AlphaTauri, McLaren and Alfa Romeo.
Vettel stormed through the field and pulling off two overtakes around the outside of the triple-apex turn 19, on Alex Albon and on Kevin Magnussen in the process. The four-time world champion was voted ‘Driver of The Day’ by the fans.
Speaking to media after the race, Vettel conceded that the team could have scored “double the points” with a smooth pit stop, but took comfort from the “fun” he had overtaking several cars in the final stages of the grand prix:
“Obviously, without the slow pit stop we would’ve scored double the points. In return, at least I had fun race at the end, and we could recover some points. The positive obviously is the points, and the fact that the pace was quite strong in the race.”
When asked if he had any explanation for Aston Martin’s sudden upturn in form recently, Vettel replied: “No, not really,” he said. “We looked after the tyres well, but I don’t think that’s the main factor. It was a total surprise to be faster than McLaren and Alpine today.”
Vettel said his impressive moves around the outside of turn 19 came from a need to be creative and “unusual” due to a lack of straight line speed in his Aston Martin and said he had some “good fun” battling Haas’ Kevin Magnussen:
“I enjoyed it a lot. Obviously, you’re racing for P8 and not for P1/2/3, but still I had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the pace down the straights to just pass comfortably, so I had to try something unusual – either on brakes or in unusual spots and I did, and it worked most of the time.
“I definitely had some fun, and I had tight battles, especially with Kevin [Magnussen] at the end, last lap, it was a bit of a climax and he’s one of the most difficult ones to overtake in the entire field. But he left me just enough room, and it was good fun for both of us.
“It’s on the limit. And the problem is that the other car doesn’t really see you at that point, so it’s a bit of a surprise. And with Kevin I thought ‘I’m not sure whether he sees me or pushes me right to the edge’, but he left enough [space].
“It was getting bumpy and dirty as well there, I had a big moment with a snap, then locked up all four wheels – especially the rears – over the bump heading into turn 19, which I wasn’t sure that I’m gonna make, but I made it. Very much on the limit, but good fun.”
Vettel said his surge in form and his renewed excitement for the on-track action in recent races since announcing his retirement at the end of the season haven’t changed his mind on the decision, saying he is looking forward to “what’s coming next”:
“I obviously will miss these moments, that’s not a secret. But I did think long and hard making the decision, and I also thought about these moments that I will miss, the adrenaline and so on.
“Obviously a part of me will miss those a lot, but the other part of me is looking forward to what’s coming.”
Despite missing the first two races of the season due to Covid-19, Vettel has now scored 36 points and is only 10 points away from Valtteri Bottas, 10th in the drivers’ championship. His score today also helped Aston Martin close the gap to sixth-placed Alfa Romeo in the constructors’ championship to just three points, with three races to go.