F1 drivers didn’t sugarcoat their touching tribute to one of the sport’s greatest drivers on and off the track, Sebastian Vettel.
The Aston Martin driver announced via Instagram that he will retire from F1 at the end of the season. Throughout his legendary career, he recorded four world championships (’10 to ’13), 53 race wins and 122 podiums. There are 10 more Grand Prix left in the calendar.
But his influence went beyond just racing, as Vettel never hesitated to speak out on issues related to the environment or human rights.
“There is no lack of bravery in Sebastian,” said Lewis Hamilton Sky Sports Thursday. “He was one of the very, very few drivers in the history of racing who stood up for himself. He’s used his voice in things that I’ve fought for and stood by, he bent the knee, he went his own way and stood on the gridiron and fought for things that he believed in and for the greater good.”
The Mercedes driver described in his media presence how Vettel has been one of the few on the grid over the years who have backed him to make a change.
“When I talk about the journey I’ve felt I’ve had in this sport and often the feeling that it’s been relatively lonely, he’s one of the few people who’s made it not feel lonely,” Hamilton said ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend. “He’s been there for me through a lot.
“I always remember 2007, the press conference at Mani-Cours and he was very outspoken in the drivers’ briefing and I knew then that he was going to be a powerful figure in the sport. Then I saw his success and saw that he put others before himself. .. he was so brave to speak up and stand up for what he believed in.
“I think he’s one of the greatest people we’ve seen in this sport and we need more like him. Sad because I’ve lost an ally in this side of the sport on the gridiron, but I know he’s going to do great things out there and we’ll always be friends and hopefully there’s other things we can do together out there.”
Carlos Sainz has commented on Vettel’s role model, even when the Spaniard was a simulator driver during the German’s peak years at Red Bull.
“I could see how professional he was and that gave me a very good idea of how you have to behave or what you have to be like to be a successful F1 driver like him. I remember those years very well,” Sainz said on Thursday. “He always had kind words for me, stopped and talked to me and gave me advice. He’s a great role model, as these guys have already said, and he’s an ambassador for the sport, but not just for the sport, but I think also for the younger generation coming through, and the kind of career that would you mind?
“I always get along well with all the teams, with everyone. Everyone in the paddock loves him, you know? You won’t hear anyone talking bad about Seb.
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Daniel Ricciardo, who was Vettel’s teammate, commented that the news was “in a way sad, of course, because you’re losing a bit of a legend of the sport.” Esteban Ocon later mentioned that he had spoken to the Aston Martin driver a few weeks ago and that such a recent retirement was not “the thought I had” when discussing his future.
“In our case, he was a great ambassador for all the drivers and he raised his voice … when he had concerns about our safety and all kinds of things he didn’t like about the drivers,” the Alpine driver said.
George Russell said Vettel was “such an inspiration and such a humble man”. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez commented that he was “very proud of Seb, with what he has achieved”, according to Motorsport.
“He has everything you would expect a colleague to achieve. So I’m very proud of him and wish him and his family the best. I think it’s a very personal decision. I think it’s extremely personal, it’s how you feel and what you want to do and what your family is like.
“When you get older you definitely set other priorities and then you don’t want to pay the price of being an F1 driver because there is a price. Sometimes you are and sometimes you aren’t.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was Vettel’s teammate, said the news was “sad”, at least for him.
“Maybe for him, he’s a lot happier where he’s going now. It will obviously be strange not seeing Seb in the paddock. I learned so much driving with him and he was always super nice to me. I’ll definitely miss Seb in the paddock, but I wish him the best and I’m sure he’ll find other things to make him happy in other ways.”
Meanwhile, Mick Schumacher described Vettel’s departure as leaving a “huge hole” in the sport. The two have developed a close friendship over the years and Vettel texted Schumacher on Thursday morning about his retirement.
“It’s much more than just racing,” said Schumacher, per Motorsport. “This is the opportunity to visit him in the evening and have dinner with him. That’s what I’m really going to miss. He’s just someone I can talk to in my native language. He will be super, super missed by everyone, but especially by me.”
The Haas F1 driver added: “I don’t think anyone can replace Sebastian. That’s a fact. If it’s not on track, it’s in a political way, and I think yes, it’s important to have someone to speak up and attack those points.
“But I don’t think Sebastian has stopped yet. As you said in your video, there is more. And I’m sure we can all learn from what he still has to say. I am sure he will still have a strong voice in Formula 1 even if he is not driving himself.”
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