Sebastian Vettel announces Formula One retirement, says his goals have shifted

Sebastian Vettel announces Formula One retirement, says his goals have shifted
German Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin in the paddock at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod, Hungary, 28 July 2022, three days ahead of the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix. Vettel announced on Thursday that he will retire at the end of the season. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Tamas Kovacs)

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel announced on Thursday his retirement from Formula One at the end of the season, saying his goals had changed and that he wanted to focus more on family and interests outside the sport.

The 35-year-old German former world champion Sebastian Vettel won his titles with Red Bull from 2010-13 and spent six seasons with Ferrari before joining British-based Aston Martin, currently languishing ninth of 10 teams.

Vettel made the announcement ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, the 13th round of the season and last race before the August break.

“I hereby announce my retirement from Formula One by the end of the 2022 season,” he said in a video statement on a newly created Instagram page.

vettel silverstone

German Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin arrives for the Formula One Grand Prix of Britain at the Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, Britain, 3 July 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Christian Bruna)

“I love this sport. It has been central to my life since I can remember. But as much as there is life on track, there’s my life off track too. Being a racing driver has never been my sole identity.

“Next to racing I have grown a family and I love being around them. I have grown other interests outside Formula One,” explained the Swiss-based father of three.

Decisive times

Vettel, who has become increasingly outspoken on topics ranging from the environment and sustainability to LGBTQ+ rights, said his goals had shifted from winning races to seeing his children grow.

“Passing on my values, helping them up when they fall, listening to them when they need me, not having to say goodbye and, most importantly, being able to learn from them and let them inspire me,” he said.

“I feel we live in very decisive times and how we all shape these next years will determine our lives.

“My passion comes with certain aspects that I’ve learned to dislike.”

Vettel, who has joined in collecting litter after races, and campaigns for green causes, said in May that climate change made him question his job. 

vettel austria

German Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin in action during the first practice session of the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, 8 July 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Christian Bruna)

Asked then whether his position on the environment and global warming made him a hypocrite, considering his flying around the world for a team sponsored by Saudi oil giant Aramco, he conceded that it did.

“There’s questions I ask myself every day, and I’m not a saint,” he said.

Vettel ranks third on the all-time race winners list, behind seven-times champions Lewis Hamilton (103) and Michael Schumacher (91), with 53 victories. His last win was with Ferrari at Monza in 2019.

He remains Formula One’s youngest world champion, taking his first crown at 23 years old, but lost his record as the youngest race winner to an 18-year-old Max Verstappen in 2016.

Vettel’s race debut was at the 2007 US Grand Prix as a stand-in for Robert Kubica at BMW-Sauber.

The following year he took his first pole position and first win in the wet with Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) at their home Italian Grand Prix and became Red Bull’s first race winner in China in 2009.

His last race, in Abu Dhabi in November, is set to be the 300th of his career.

“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,” said Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll.

vettel baku

Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin in action during qualifying of the Formula One Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at the Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, 11 June 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ali Haider)

“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.”

Hamilton (37) said it was an honour to call him a friend.

“You’re leaving this sport better than you found it, which is always the goal,” said the Briton.

Hardcore petrolhead

“Everyone in the paddock loves him,” Spaniard Carlos Sainz, a simulator driver at Red Bull when Vettel was chalking up back-to-back championship success with that team, told reporters at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Thursday.

“You will not hear someone speaking bad about Seb.

“I think this just speaks about his personality, his life as a human being, not only as a driver,” added the 27-year-old, who replaced the German at Ferrari last year.

“Such an inspiration and such a humble bloke,” added Mercedes’ George Russell.

The tone of the tributes reflected the transformation Vettel has undergone since making his Formula One debut in 2007.

A hardcore “petrolhead”, lover of rock classics and keen student of the sport’s history, he once gave his cars names like “Randy Mandy” and “Kinky Kylie” and mourned the passing of the loud and gas-guzzling V10 era.

vettel australia

German Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martini during the qualifying session of the Formula One Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Australia, 9 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Simon Baker / Pool)

He collects litter from the stands after races, cycles to work and has completed an internship in organic farming and creating a bee habitat.

The German even used sustainable fuel while conducting a demo run in Nigel Mansell’s 1992 British Grand Prix-winning Williams, which Vettel now owns, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of that triumph at Silverstone.

In 2013 Vettel was seen by some as a “villain”, snatching victory from teammate Mark Webber in Malaysia in 2013 and swerving into Hamilton’s Mercedes in Baku in 2018.

Only Schumacher, Hamilton and 1950s great Juan Manuel Fangio won more titles.

“He has achieved so much in the sport that it’s really understandable for him to retire,” said Red Bull’s reigning champion, Max Verstappen.

“He’s had an amazing career, he’s won a lot of races, he’s won a lot of championships as well… he’s a great ambassador for the sport.” Reuters/DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

[%% img-description %%]

The Spy Bill: An autocratic roadmap to State Capture 2.0

Join Heidi Swart in conversation with Anton Harber and Marianne Merten as they discuss a concerning push to pass a controversial “Spy Bill” into law by May 2024. Tues 5 Dec at 12pm, live, online and free of charge.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options