A career that began at the 2007 United States Grand Prix, and spanned five different Formula One teams, 57 pole positions, 53 wins, and 4 F1 Championships drew to a close on Sunday, as the legendary Sebastian Vettel raced in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his final F1 event.
Vettel announced back in July that this would be his final F1 season, closing the books on one of the truly great careers in F1 history. Announcing his impending retirement, Vettel had this to say about his career, the sport, and his supporters:
The decision to retire has been a difficult one for me to take, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about it; at the end of the year I want to take some more time to reflect on what I will focus on next; it is very clear to me that, being a father, I want to spend more time with my family. But today is not about saying goodbye.
“Rather, it is about saying thank you – to everyone – not least to the fans, without whose passionate support Formula One could not exist.
As the F1 circuit traveled to Abu Dhabi for the final race on the calendar, a week-long tribute to Vettel got underway. Perhaps the most touching, and wholesome, was a dinner attended by the 20 F1 drivers in Vettel’s honor. Incredible images resulted from the event, including this group photo of the drivers shared by Mercedes’ George Russell:
Even better was this image, because apparently it was AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly who took the photo, using the timer on his phone. Here is Gasly setting up the shot:
the way they used a self timer on pierre’s phone most likely. the chaos of everyone getting the pictures sent around. did they airdrop? are they screenshotting from others posts? i want answers pic.twitter.com/Odn2l6Lokh
— rea ⁴ ¹⁰ (@PIERR3GASLY) November 17, 2022
Vettel’s father Norbert also recorded this incredible tribute to his son that, well, just watch it:
Norbert was also on hand to present his son with his very first racing suit, and helmet, as a memento:
A very special surprise.
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) November 18, 2022
Eventually, it was time to take to the track, but the wholesomeness did not stop. Before Vettel rolled off for practice, here was Haas driver Mick Schumacher waving to his fellow German:
When it was time for qualifying, Vettel posted one of his best sessions of the entire season, qualifying in ninth position. That tied his best qualifying performance of the entire 2022 campaign
Before the Grand Prix itself, however, there was one last bit of business for Vettel.
A run around the track with the entire paddock on Saturday night:
Then it was Sunday, and time for the final race of the season, and Vettel’s career. The German climbed into his Aston Martin car for the last time, after walking through an honor guard comprised of the other F1 drivers:
Finally, the lights went out, and the racing began at Yas Marina. While the main storyline was the battle for second place in the Driver’s Championship between Charles Leclerc and Sergio Pérez — a battle that Leclerc would win — all eyes were on Vettel as he wound his way around the circuit. After a spirited battle with Daniel Ricciardo in the final laps of the race, Vettel came across the line in the points, placing tenth.
Time for the final flourish:
Vettel then climbed out of his seat to address the crowd at Yas Marina:
Prior to the race Lewis Hamilton, who reportedly picked up the tab for the group dinner earlier in the week, had a little prediction for his fellow F1 driver: “Formula One has a way of sucking you back in and we’ve noticed that with so many other drivers so…He’s come back, you’re probably going to come back,” said Hamilton at a press conference a few days ago with Vettel and Fernando Alonso. Hamilton referred to the fact that Alonso walked away from the sport a few years ago, but returned to F1 with Alpine in 2021.
Alonso will take Vettel’s place at Aston Martin next year.
If indeed this was the last race for Vettel, it was a wonderful finish to a truly legendary career. He walks away with numerous F1 records, including most pole positions in a season (15), most consecutive wins in a season (9), most laps led in a season (739), and he was the youngest driver to win a Driver’s Championship, when he took home the title back in 2010, the first of four-straight championships.
A true living legend.