Vettel already has some catching up to do

Despite racking up fewer mileages than any of his rivals during the Formula One pre-season in Bahrain, Vettel, who is a veteran in this game, is not panicking.

Pre-Season Testing - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - March 14, 2021 General view of Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel in action during testing.   -  REUTERS

Sebastian Vettel will want to show he still has the speed and spirit of a four-times world champion as he makes a fresh start with Aston Martin this season, but the German already has some catching up to do.

Through no fault of his own, the 33-year-old ended Formula One's pre-season testing in Bahrain with less mileage than any of his rivals and with the first race looming at the same Sakhir circuit on March 28.

Such a situation would have alarmed him back in the day when he won four successive titles with Red Bull but Vettel, winner of 53 races, is older and wiser now.

"Probably 10 years ago I would finally panic now," Vettel told reporters. "But then again, if I were to panic now would it help? Probably not.

READ | Sabine Schmitz, pioneering German race driver, dies at 51

"We are just trying to do our things and use the time now we have. We still got some running, and for me, it was super, super useful.”

"It could be better, but it could be worse. So I think it's about remaining calm, doing one thing at a time and moving forward when it's time to."

Vettel arrives at the Mercedes-powered, Silverstone-based team after six years at Ferrari, the last two spent uncomfortably alongside rising star Charles Leclerc, and with a new role.

Glaring mistakes at Ferrari raised questions about his capabilities but Aston Martin, the former Racing Point team, which won in Bahrain last year with now-departed Mexican Sergio Perez, is sure Vettel still has plenty in the tank.

READ | Nico Hulkenberg in frame for Mercedes and McLaren reserve role

The team value his feedback and sees him as key to helping with the progress of Canadian teammate Lance Stroll, son of Aston Martin owner Lawrence.

"I think we're going to get the best out of Seb, I really do," said technical director Andrew Green at the team's car and livery launch.

Vettel did only 10 laps on day two of testing, a total of 54km, as a result of a gearbox problem and then had a loss of boost pressure on Sunday that forced an early finish and left plenty of boxes still to tick.

Over three days he managed 117 laps, less than half the total of AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly (237).

The German told reporters that doing laps was more important than the times, that he was around 100 short of where he wanted to be and expected the opening races to be a steep learning curve.

READ | Bahrain Grand Prix limits F1 tickets to vaccinated and COVID recovered

"The car feels very promising but there’s still a lot of things that I need to get used to," said Vettel.

"It’s a new environment, new people and a new way of doing things. I need to adapt and learn so that will take some time. The more time you get, the better it is.

"The one and a half days each of us gets (in testing) are very crucial but...it’s normal that it takes more than one and a half days to get back into a rhythm and everything."