Many things can be said about the four-time F1 champ, Sebastian Vettel, who has evaded social media all his career, only to open an Instagram account to tell the world he’s retiring from F1 for good. Classic Seb. Always doing things differently. We’ll miss that in the world of corporate race car drivers, where everyone is as PC and PR-friendly as you can get.
Seb’s career started with BMW Sauber in 2007 at 19, replacing Robert Kubica. In that race, he qualified 7th and finished 8th and, at the time, became the youngest driver to score points in F1 history.
One year later at Monza, in the uncompetitive Toro Rosso, Vettel secured the accolade of being the youngest person in F1 history to secure a pole position, in the rain. Not only that but the next day he went on to win. If that wasn’t a sign of things to come…
Sebastian Vettel’s love for the sport was unrivalled. A proper F1 and history geek who lived for the sport and its rich context. This was demonstrated on an F1 Grill-the-Grid interview when he was on live TV and could name every year’s champion starting with Lewis Hamilton in 2020, to Giuseppe Farina in 1950. A moment that stood out and showed that Seb was more than just a hot-shot driver.
What this means for F1 is more than just an empty seat. Seb’s departure, just like Kimi Raikkonen’s, is going to leave a huge hole in the sport. From playing mentor to younger drivers as well as serving as a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, which was founded to improve driver safety standards, Seb’s style of servant leadership will be missed.
The truth is, this year hasn’t been his. Even with a struggling car, he looked a little out of place and a fraction of his former self. The Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari, the Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull and those early days in his first impactful years. Those are racing memories we’ll cherish the most.
It was outside the car where Seb continued to shine. His view of equality, kindness and respect always spoke loudly. It was always greater than just virtue signalling. With Seb, there was always this genuine sincerity and even though a lot was shared around races, you always felt that every act of kindness was anything but a PR stunt. He really does care.
In a heartfelt message to the racing world, he cited a few reasons for his departure. The sacrifice of being an F1 driver meant that time away from his family was becoming more and more of an issue. You can’t blame him. With the level of sacrifice an F1 driver needs to put in and a growing calendar threat, it’s no surprise that he chooses to bow out at the end of 2022. You see, there’s nothing more to achieve for Seb. He’s played his part.
And whoever may be filling his seat at Aston Martin, to me, it doesn’t matter at this point. Let’s rather take the moment to appreciate the human that was Sebastian Vettel. It’s time for Seb to hang up the gloves and live out his next chapter. I, like everyone else, will miss him. Tschüss und Danke, Seb.