Four-time Formula One World Champion and Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel has announced that he will be leaving the sport at the end of the ongoing 2022 FIA Championship, bringing end to an illustrious 15-year career.
Vettel’s announcement comes ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The season finale, scheduled to be held in Abu Dhabi, will be Vettel’s 300th and final Grand Prix entry.
A 19-year-old Vettel made his Formula One debut at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, coming on as a test driver for BMW Sauber. He made his race debut the following year at the 2007 United States Grand Prix, where he finished eighth and became the then-youngest points scorer in Formula One.
Vettel moved to Toro Rosso the following year and won his first-ever race at the Italian Grand Prix in 2008, becoming the youngest-ever Formula One winner at that time.
Following a stellar debut season with Toro Rosso, Vettel was called up to the Red Bull team in 2009, where he gave the team their first-ever win in China. Vettel finished second in the Championship standings in his debut season with Red Bull.
The following season saw Vettel emerge in an epic title fight with his then-teammate Mark Webber, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. Vettel pipped them all at the season finale in Abu Dhabi to be crowned as the youngest Formula One World Champion.
Vettel and Red Bull reigned over the sport for the next three years, winning four back-to-back World Championships. The German racer became the youngest quadruple World Champion in the sport.
Vettel followed in his idol’s (Michael Schumacher) footsteps when he moved to Ferrari in 2015. This move also coincided with the new regulations and the rise of Mercedes. Although Vettel had a relatively successful time with the Scuderia, he failed to win that elusive fifth World Title, falling short twice in 2017 and 2018 as he finished second to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel and Ferrari parted ways after the 2020 season, with the German moving to the then-newly-branded Aston Martin. Although hopes were high, the Aston Martin package wasn’t what Vettel was looking for to fight for podiums and wins. Although Aston Martin were adamant and vocal about wanting to keep Vettel for 2023 and beyond, Vettel himself had previously stated that he didn’t enjoy “fighting for a P12 or P13”.
Apart from being a champion on the track, Vettel champions a lot of social issues off it too and uses his platform to raise awareness about equality, human rights and environmental issues. As he leaves the sport, even though we may not be able to see him on the track, we will certainly see Vettel being vocal about the issues that matter to him the most.
Vettel’s current F1 record stands thusly: 4 World Titles, 53 race wins and 122 podiums.
Sebastian Vettel spoke about his decision to retire, stating:
“I have had the privilege of working with many fantastic people in Formula One over the past 15 years – there are far too many to mention and thank. Over the past two years I have been an Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team driver – and, although our results have not been as good as we had hoped, it is very clear to me that everything is being put together that a team needs to race at the very highest level for years to come.
“I have really enjoyed working with such a great bunch of people. Everyone – Lawrence, Lance, Martin, Mike, the senior managers, the engineers, the mechanics and the rest of the team – is ambitious, capable, expert, committed and friendly, and I wish them all well. I hope that the work I did last year and am continuing to do this year will be helpful in the development of a team that will win in the future, and I will work as hard as I can between now and the end of the year with that goal in mind, giving as always my best in the last 10 races.
“The decision to retire has been a difficult one for me to take, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about it; at the end of the year I want to take some more time to reflect on what I will focus on next; it is very clear to me that, being a father, I want to spend more time with my family. But today is not about saying goodbye.
“Rather, it is about saying thank you – to everyone – not least to the fans, without whose passionate support Formula One could not exist.“
Lawrence Stroll, Executive Chairman, Aston Martin, commented:
“I want to thank Sebastian from the bottom of my heart for the great work that he has done for Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team over the past year and a half. We made it clear to him that we wanted him to continue with us next year, but in the end he has done what he feels is right for himself and his family, and of course we respect that.
“He has driven some fantastic races for us, and, behind the scenes, his experience and expertise with our engineers have been extremely valuable. He is one of the all-time greats of Formula One, and it has been a privilege to have been able to work with him. He will continue to race for us up to and including the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which will be his 300th Grand Prix entry. We will give him a fabulous send-off.“
Mike Krack, Team Principal, Aston Martin Formula One team, added:
“Sebastian is a superb driver – fast, intelligent and strategic – and of course we are going to miss those qualities. However, we have all learned from him, and the knowledge that we have gained from working with him will continue to benefit our team long after his departure.
“Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team is a great project, with unlimited potential, and the groundwork that Sebastian has done last year, and is still doing this year, is crucial. When we become fully competitive – and we will – one of the architects of that future success will be Sebastian, and we will always be grateful to him for that.“