Why Is Sebastian Vettel Retiring From Formula 1 With 4 Championships?

The season has been such a crushing disappointment to Sebastian Vettel that the four-time Formula 1 champion could not wait one more week to announce his retirement plans at a more logical point in the schedule.

One day after informing his team, Vettel, 35, posted to social media on Thursday that he intends to leave F1 “by the end of the 2022 season.” That raises the possibility of stepping away as early as the month-long summer break that follows this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel announced his impending retirement from Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel of Germany and the Aston Martin Formula 1 team looks on from the drivers parade ahead of the Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 10, 2022 in Spielberg, Austria. | Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Sebastian Vettel of Germany and the Aston Martin Formula 1 team looks on from the drivers parade ahead of the Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 10, 2022 in Spielberg, Austria. | Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Only Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, and Juan Manuel Fangio have won more than the four World Drivers’ Championships that Sebastian Vettel owns, so Vettel’s surprise announcement shook up Formula 1.

The easy answer as to why Vettel is leaving is that his wife and three children are a greater priority to him than racing is. He referenced his family during the brief video he taped and distributed online on Thursday to announce his retirement.

“My goals have shifted from winning races and fighting for championships to seeing my children grow, passing on my values, helping them up when they fall, listening to them when they need me, not having to say goodbye, and most importantly being able to learn from them and let them inspire me.”

Sebastian Vettel

Later, however, he spoke in more cryptic terms.

“I feel we live in very decisive times. And how we all shape the next years will determine all our lives,” Vettel said. “My passion comes with certain aspects that I have learned to dislike. They might be solved in the future but the will to apply that change has to grow much, much stronger and has to be leading to action today. Talk is not enough, and we cannot afford to wait. There is no alternative. The race is underway.”

The last four seasons have been brutal for Sebastian Vettel

German-born motorsports star Sebastian Vettel is closing in on 300 Formula 1 starts and has won 53 times in his impressive career. However, there have been no checkered flags since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix, which was followed by a horrendous six-race stretch to close the year. Then, he spent the final season with Scuderia Ferrari driving arguably the worst car of his career.

There are certain parallels to what the racing world sees now in Lewis Hamilton. However, Mercedes’ drop-off hasn’t been nearly as pronounced as that of Ferrari in Vettel’s last days. And when driver and team could not agree on a new contract, Vettel took a two-year offer from Aston Martin, which has been going in the wrong direction since.

While Vettel remains respected by many of his peers and reportedly has an offer in hand to return to Aston Martin in 2023, there is little sense in sticking around with virtually no hope of adding to those 53 F1 victories.

Seventeenth place in Spielberg two weeks ago appears to have been the breaking point.

“It’s a shame, but I understand him,” Norbert Vettel said, according to The Sports Rush.  “It was an incredible career for my son. But the low point was Austria. It hurt him so much to drive around at the end of the field and that accelerated this thought.”

We’ve probably not heard the last from the driver

Even Michael Schumacher once came out of retirement though he had nothing to prove, but don’t expect Sebastian Vettel to do likewise. There are no technology changes scheduled that might help Aston Martin field better cars. The spending cap will keep the team from buying its way to improvement.

Vettel is undoubtedly sincere about committing more time to his family, and he may all but disappear for a time to reenergize himself. But he has been outspoken on everything from safety measures in Formula 1 to taking care of the environment. Given the freedom to go where he wants when he wants rather than following the demanding F1 schedule of racing and other commitments, he is sure to resurface with goals in mind.

Vettel has the passion to lead but is too blunt for his own good to win elective office. But that’s not to say he cannot find other ways to lead. Don’t be surprised if he champions environmental and educational causes a few years down the road, leveraging his celebrity status to push for change.

It would be the opportunity to finally race out front once more.

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Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at JohnM@Sportscasting.com.

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