'Over the moon' Vettel didn't expect podium in Baku

ยฉ XPB 

Sebastian Vettel couldn't have been happier after scoring his first podium for Aston Martin since joining the team from Ferrari over the winter off-season.

โ€œGreat day, Iโ€™m over the moon for the team, itโ€™s great," he declared in the parc ferme interview with Paul di Resta after the race. "Obviously, a podium โ€“ we didnโ€™t expect that when we came here.

"This means a great deal," he continued. "Itโ€™s been a tough start [to the season] for us, and I think it was a great race.

"I felt good in the car, and combined with on-track events and strategy, we were able to get a really special result.โ€

On Saturday Vettel had howled with frustration after a red flag in Q2 meant he missed out on making it through to the top ten pole shootout by just three hundredths of a second.

But qualifying in 11th place made him the highest placed driver on the grid with free choice of tyres to start the race, and he opted for to start on a set of new soft tyres to focus on early gains.

"Already on Friday, even though we were nowhere it felt good. I was quite relaxed," he said. "Yesterday we didnโ€™t quite get it, but today it was even sweeter.

โ€œStrategy-wise itโ€™s always better to start further up, but the new tyres for sure didnโ€™t hurt," he commented. "Other people already had laps on theirs from qualifying.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR21 makes a pit stop. 06.06.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 6, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku

"The key was being able to start with a free choice of tyres in P11. It meant we could use a new set of softs to make up two places at the start

โ€œIt helped us to go longer, but we really preserved the tyres well and I think that was the secret. Plus the pace that we had in the race.

โ€œWe had good pace, that was the key," he suggested. "I had a good start, made some positions for us straight away, and looked after my tyres as soon as everybody went to the pits."

Vettel briefly led the race before making his stop on lap 18 to switch to a new set of the hard compound. The later stop enabled him to get a jump on pit lane over AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda.

โ€œI had really good pace to overcut Yuki at least," Vettel said. "It gave us a platform for the second half of the race and put us in a position to take advantage.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Aston Martin F1 Team celebrates his second position on the podium. 06.06.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 6, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku

He also passed Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc at the restart after a safety car following his team mate Lance Stroll's retirement on lap 30.

"The restart worked brilliantly for me, I got another two positions there," he said. โ€œWe obviously had fresher tyres, which I guess helped with warming up the tyres later on."

Vettel looked to have topped out in fourth place, which itself would have been a strong result for the team. But then on lap 47 Max Verstappen crashed out of the lead after suffering a tyre failure and Vettel was up into a potential podium position ahead of a two-lap shootout.

Again, Vettel was able to benefit from what had happened in qualifying, having saved another set of soft tyres which he could now use for the standing restart,

Aston Martin CEO and team principal Otmar Szafnauer was delighted by the outcome to today's race, saying that Vettel had driven "extremely well".

"A brilliant result for everyone in our team and the first ever podium for Aston Martin in World Championship Formula 1 history," he pointed out, adding that Lance Stroll had also been putting in a strong performance before his tyre failure.

"Both Lance and Sebastian showed today that we have the race pace to compete at the very front of the midfield, or better," he said. "That is what both of them will be aiming to do as the rest of the season unfolds.โ€

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