Formula 1 Racing

Why Vettel’s retirement is a huge loss for F1 on and off-track

Vettel's 2013 season was one of the most dominant in recent times, as he claimed a fourth world title on the trot with Red Bull

News of Sebastian Vettel’s plan to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season was met with widespread sadness across the sport’s fanbase and paddock community.

This is a driver who has established himself as one of the all-time greats, winning four world champions and enjoying the kind of dominance with Red Bull few have tasted in F1 history.

But Vettel is also a driver who, as he has got older, grew into his voice and became an incredibly significant spokesman for F1’s future and the need for change.

We’ve seen that in recent weeks as Vettel has advocated the use of carbon-neutral fuels, driving Nigel Mansell’s 1992 Williams FW14B, and even the original Aston Martin car from 1922 at Paul Ricard last week.

PLUS: The inconvenient questions posed by Vettel’s Williams run

Vettel talked about the 1922 car run after qualifying last Saturday, and was asked who would take over as the voice for F1 when the likes of him and Lewis Hamilton called it quits.

“Instagram!” came Vettel’s reply, something we brushed off at the time of being a wry comment on the state of the modern world from a driver so adverse to using social media throughout his career. And yet it ended up being the platform through which he would drop the biggest bombshell since revealing his shock decision to quit Red Bull at the end of 2014.

That came after a period where Vettel was in absolute prime. Think to his domination of F1 through the back end of the 2013 season, when he tied Alberto Ascari’s record of nine consecutive race wins, smashing the field time and time again; pulling two seconds per laps on the pack in Singapore; sitting out the final runs in Q3, so comfortable was his advantage in the fight for pole. Few could get close to him.

Vettel’s 2013 season was one of the most dominant in recent times, as he claimed a fourth world title on the trot with Red Bull

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

He had long brushed off the ‘crash-kid’ jibe laid at his door by then McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh – who he would later work with at Aston Martin – and become one of the most complete racing drivers F1 had seen. He had four world titles and 39 race wins to his name by the age of 26, making many of the all-time records seem well within his reach.

The difficulties of 2014 with Red Bull paved the way for him to join Ferrari, following in the footsteps of his hero and friend, Michael Schumacher. Schumacher had always looked out for Vettel through his early F1 days, an act repeated…

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