Formula 1 Racing

Vettel explains F1 exit · RaceFans

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2010

Last Wednesday, just over three weeks after his 35th birthday, Sebastian Vettel decided to call time on his Formula 1 career.

He is one of the most successful drivers in the sport’s history. Only two drivers – Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher – have scored more than his 53 grand prix victories. Juan Manuel Fangio joins that pair as one of only three drivers with more world championships than Vettel’s four.

He could have carried on several years more. But for years Vettel has been weighing his desire to keep racing in F1 against his wish to spend time with his family – and his fears for the future of the planet. Now the balance has tipped, and this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix will begin a 10-race countdown to the end of a storied career.

Vettel has made his growing concern for the state of the environment increasingly clear since he joined his current team Aston Martin from Ferrari at the beginning of last year. That has inevitably stood in stark contrast to his occupation, a fact he has freely acknowledged, frankly describing himself as a “hypocrite”.

Feature: The five teams of number five – Vettel’s F1 career history in pictures

Speaking to RaceFans and other media at the Hungaroring yesterday for the first time since announcing his decision, Vettel explained how it was influenced by his increasing awareness of the dire threat climate change presents to the planet.

Within the space of a few years, Vettel has gone from being an occasional agitator for F1 to ditch its efficient V6 hybrid turbo power units in favour of thirsty V12s to demonstrating the potential of sustainable fuel, organising post-race litter collection and teaching schoolchildren how to build bee habitats. He is certain that his departure from F1 will make no difference to how seriously it views the threat of climate change.

“When it comes to the climate crisis there is no way that F1 or any sport or business can avoid it because it impacts all of us,” he explained in response to a question from RaceFans. “So maybe it will be pushed back or maybe it will be more quiet. But it’s only a matter of time, that we don’t have.”

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He is by no means the only environmentally-conscious F1 driver – Lewis Hamilton has used his huge social media following to spread similar messages for years. Nor is environmentalism the only cause which Vettel has leant his support to: In Hungary last year he spoke up in support of…

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