Sebastian Vettel still loves Formula 1, but the fulfillment has faded as the wins have dried up.
After 16 seasons, the last two with a struggling Aston Martin team, Vettel is retiring and is relieved to leave, although he still doesn’t know what he will do next.
“I know how much dedication there is in that, and if you’re doing it, I’m convinced you have to do it the right way,” Vettel said. “The goal has always been to win and compete in front, so I don’t feel a lot of fun being here and being part of it.”
On Sunday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Vettel, 35, will start a Grand Prix for the 299th time, as he leaves a sport he entered in 2007.
His career has earned him four world titles, with Red Bull, and 122 podiums, including 53 victories. His last victory dates back to 2019 in Singapore when he was at Ferrari, where he spent six seasons.
“I’m very excited to have nothing planned, no commitments,” he said. “What do I care? I think it’s going to do a lot of things in my head, but I’m curious what exactly it will be.
Vettel said he had “a lot of ideas and things I would like to do”. For the past few years, he has shed light on sustainability and the environment and spoken out on behalf of the LGBTQ community.
Formula 1: on and off the track
“My concern for the environment is one of the factors that certainly played a part in my decision to retire, to see the world change and to see the future in a position that is very much at risk for all of us, and in particular for generations to come,” he said. .
“I understand that part of my passion, my work, is about things that I’m not a fan of. I travel the world, I race cars, I burn resources. It’s something I can’t. not look away, and once you see these things, once you are aware, I don’t think you can really not see.
Vettel has helped Austrian students build a hotel for bees, collected litter from the stands at Silverstone after a British Grand Prix and visited a factory in Iceland that collects carbon dioxide from the air.
Ahead of last weekend’s São Paulo Grand Prix, Vettel visited the organization SOS Mata Atlantica to learn more about the reforestation of a logging area in Brazil.
“At some point we won’t all have the choice to be activists because we have to actively push to survive,” Vettel said. “It sounds really dramatic, but it’s something that’s going to catch up with us very, very soon.
“The more I watch the more I get into all of this, it’s great to raise awareness and plant a seed and get people to watch what’s going on and help understand because once you understand you start caring, and once you care, you’re happy to help.
Formula 1 provided Vettel with a platform to voice his opinion. He said his “opinions would not be withdrawn and discarded” because he was retiring.
“It would be bad motivation to continue doing what I have always done just to express an opinion on certain subjects,” he said. “Maybe I’ll lose some voice and range, but they were never front and center.”
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton said he was “sad” to see Vettel leave Formula 1, as a rival, friend and campaigner.
“It’s been an unexpected relationship and friendship,” said seven-time champion Hamilton. “It’s so hard when you’re so competitive and you’re both fighting for something you’re passionate about.”
He said Vettel was “one of the very, very few drivers in racing history who represented so much more than himself”.
“He used his voice in things I fought for and supported me. He went on his own journey and stood on the grid and fought for things he believed in and for the greater good.
“He’s just a really nice human being, and I’m really grateful to have been here when he was racing.”
Christian Horner, the principal of the Red Bull team, where Vettel won his four titles from 2010 to 2013, said he will never forget when Vettel dominated. Vettel holds the record for the youngest champion, at 23, having won his first title in 2010.
“He was an integral part of our team and it was a pleasure to work with him,” said Horner. “He was committed and relentless in his pursuit of performance. Probably the hardest working driver I have encountered.
“Beyond that, just a really nice guy. We had so many special moments, those four world championships, there were days when he was just in a league of his own. Very special memories.
Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas said Vettel in his prime “was pretty untouchable”.
“He had a great career, he gave a lot to the sport,” he said. “But his values in life have changed a lot recently and now he has a lot to give but for the world.”
Vettel said he was leaving Formula 1 with “no real regrets”.
“I had a lot of highlights, a lot of great races, great people that I got to know and worked with,” he said. He recently said his first victory, at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, stood out: “It was an incredible race with incredible emotions.”
Vettel said he had a good time in his career.
“It has been a privilege, and I am very happy to take advantage of all of this, of all that I have learned, of all that I have been able to experience, of all the support that I have also received for hopefully Do it, boost me in the next chapter.”
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