BUDAPEST, Hungary — The morning after this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel will wake up as a former F1 driver. There will be no contract for next year, no car to develop over the winter and no chance — no matter how slim — of standing on the top of another F1 podium.
After 16 years racing in the top category of motorsport, in which he secured four world titles and 53 race victories, Vettel admits it’s an unsettling feeling. Yet, somehow, it still feels right.
“I guess because of the type of person I am, I like to know what’s coming,” he said in a news conference on Thursday after announcing his retirement. “I like to have certainty about what’s next and that’s very difficult now because there is zero certainty about what’s next.
“So to make friends with that wasn’t easy and still isn’t easy, but it feels like the right thing to do.”
His decision to retire from F1 was made final when he broke the news to his Aston Martin team on Wednesday and was made public when he announced it via Instagram on Thursday. But this wasn’t a snap, or easy, decision.
“The timeline [of the decision] takes us back years,” he said. “It’s not a decision I made overnight. The final decision was taken yesterday by telling the team I am going to stop and not going to continue, but there was a lot of thought leading into this.
“I think it’s the right time for me to do other things. I know how intense this job is and how much dedication goes into this and if you do this I am convinced you have to do it the right way.”
Vettel is a complex man and this was a complex decision.
Four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel announces he will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season on his new Instagram account.
There was no single factor that tipped the balance, although he made clear that spending more time with his wife and three young children was near the top of his priorities for the future. His growing concerns about environmental issues — and where F1 stood in addressing those problems — was also a clear factor and was undoubtedly one that helped tip the balance in favour of leaving a sport he still loves.
“So much dedication goes in to racing in F1 and that also means a lot of time in your head and with your thoughts, but also physically time away from home, from kids and family,” he explained. “I have grown other things, other than the children, other interests and views have grown and I can’t ignore these voices.
“So ultimately, the questions got…