After 15 years in F1 racing, Sebastian Vettel announced on the 28th of July this year that he is leaving, stating family as his strongest reason. Now that Vettel is closing the first big chapter in his life, it is worth looking at what he has accomplished so far and what man is behind the figure of the champion.
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) July 28, 2022
“Du Bist Weltmeister”, roared Guillaume “Rocky” Rocquelin, informing Sebastian Vettel that he had just become the youngest Formula 1 world champion.
📻 “DU BIST WELTMEISTER!!”
Sebastian Vettel’s maiden title win came at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and what a day that was ✨
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 8, 2021
Sebastian Vettel showed his tenacity and sheer athleticism, by following this with another world championship, and then two more. The quadruple world champion also holds the record for the most consecutive race wins in the sport.
All these acheivements, mind you, while sharing a racing grid with the likes of his biggest rivals, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Even Wunderkind Max Verstappen has yet to go anywhere near any of these records.
Athletes often remind us that a sport is not a popularity contest. While becoming the stuff of legend during his tenure driving for Red Bull Racing, Sebastian Vettel would have lost a popularity contest by any definition.
He showed his youth and impatience many times, most famously with his ‘Multi 21’ incident, where he refused to let teammate Mark Weber pass, a move much maligned at the time, mirrored closely by his closest analogue, a young Max Verstappen in Brazil this year.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 24, 2020
This incident, in Malaysia’s Sepang circuit in 2013, was so polarising that it motivated one blogger to say
“However the greatest moment of them all, the moment where it became apparent that Sebastian Vettel was a total dick and only cared about number one ”
Seb, as he’s affectionately known, was no Mr Congeniality in this era of dominance. His individual drive to not play the team game showed itself many times, also notably when he crashed into his teammate while under strict orders not to engage.
It has been argued since that hatred was incumbent upon any driver of such sweeping dominance. His immediate successor to this unwavering record of superiority was Lewis Hamilton, who faced (and still faces) hate that has taken on the ugly, awful face of blatant racism.
The Tifosi Tide Turns: Seb Becomes a Fan Favourite
It was when he moved to Ferrari in 2015 that the tides changed and almost reversed. The Ferrari fandom, the “TIfosi”, who once booed Seb for winning came out in droves.
The Italian fanbase is one that was almost poetically fateful in its becoming, given that Vettel took his first ever F1 race victory on the Ferrari home turf of Monza. He was the new hope for Ferrari, after years of failing with Fernando Alonso. It became quickly apparent that a world championship for Sebastian Vettel would not happen with the hurdle of both Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s incompetence to overcome.
We will never forget . THE GOAT 🐐 pic.twitter.com/KMD62O7utV
— Sid 😈 (@siddhant_jain77) September 7, 2022
The mundaneness of Lewis Hamilton’s sheer on- and off-track mastery made heroes of two underdogs: Sebastian, and his former Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo. Also, growing into the influential fame that came with his accolades, Vettel made the choice to uphold values of integrity and truth to power.
Most significant have been his championing for the causes of equality and climate change.
He is often seen wearing the pride flag, garnering adoration and an official reprimand for wearing rainbow shoes in breach of Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ stance in 2021, during the Budapest racing weekend.
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He speaks quite openly about matters of representation and against discrimination, confident that the prospect of an openly gay F1 driver would be welcomed and “rightly so”.
His racing driver’s frankness often borders on the profound when he speaks on things that he cares about, for instance:
“…we are so much richer because we have all that. Imagine if we were all the same. We wouldn’t progress. Imagine all the cars looked the same in F1, the same colour, the same aero bits. It would be boring and we’d never made progress. We’ve made progress because we were happy to apply different ideas, forms, cultures. Same for us.
We have evolved so much as a species because we are all different and I think we should celebrate the differences rather than be afraid of it.”
As for the environment, Seb is, by far, the most outspoken about climate change and how the world of F1 could better combat it.
He gained viral attention last year when he was seen cleaning up the Silverstone grandstand after the British Grand Prix was held there.
He also clearly sees education as a duty, spending a day off in Austria with primary schoolchildren constructing a bee habitat in the shape of a racecar.
He recently appeared on the BBC’s panel show “Question Time”, speaking on climate change, happily admitting to the hypocrisy of remaining a Formula 1 driver while advocating for climate action, which many viewers found refreshing and a much-needed break from stilted and over-engineered political statements and oil money politicians
“You’ve talked a lot about energy…does that make you a hypocrite?”
“When I get out of the car, of course I’m thinking, is this something that we should do?”
On #bbcqt tonight, F1 driver Sebastian Vettel and the panel discuss the energy crisis.
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) May 12, 2022
He is aware of the influence that motorsport has on mass-production mobility and has been known to have the opinion that Formula 1 falls well short of its self-stated bleeding edge innovation in ending fossil fuel reliance.
Oil money in Formula 1, especially the far-reaching relationship with Saudi state-owned oil giant Aramco, has been speculated to be amongst the reasons for Sebastian’s upcoming retirement.
Sebastian had long cemented his place in Formula 1 history with his four consecutive championships and, to the twilight of his career, has found his way into the hearts of Formula 1 fans, especially the rapidly expanding young audience of the sport.
The conversations he has started and brought to the fore will extend beyond his time in the sport and, hopefully, result in meaningful change in the short and long term.
His colleagues and co-inhabitants of the ractrack cannot help but be enamoured with him, with his friend Lewis Hamilton organising a farewell dinner to which every single driver turned up. Former teams, teammates and rivals alike poured affection and gifts on the departing legend showing how truly beloved he has become in the paddock.
Great evening with the rest of the guys celebrating Seb’s last race. Cheers! pic.twitter.com/XG7tr2hVJG
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) November 17, 2022
He is a testament to the power of influence and empathy when placed in the public eye and should live in our conscience as an athlete of rare ability and a human being with integrity beyond compare. Truly, immeasurably, Danke Seb!
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Sebastian Vettel, in his 2009-2014 Red Bull Garb Featured Photo Credit: Morio on Wikimedia Commons.