Sebastian Vettel opens on his last F1 race in Abu Dhabi GP as his rivals speak on his career as they get together for a dinner too.

And so, 15 years after his F1 debut at Indianapolis, replacing an injured Robert Kubica, the moment has come for Vettel to hang up his overalls and helmets after a last race. The 2022 Abu Dhabi GP marks the end for the four time World Champion.

Despite the decision being a hard one for Vettel where he admits that he will miss certain moments, but the German is looking ahead to a life beyond F1. He hasn’t a thought of what he could be doing or what Monday will feel like but that’s four days away.

Here’s what Vettel had to say:

Final weekend ever, thoughts and feelings –

Vettel: “I don’t know. Maybe I should ask Fernando, he went through it already! He will go through it again, I guess, at some point. But yeah, I feel okay. I mean, obviously, I guess after so many years and races, there’s the routine of Thursday. But I think it’s difficult in a way to grasp but I’m aware of what’s happening and I’m happy about it, as far  as I can be.”

Emotions in the cockpit while driving and racing –

Vettel: “I will see. I guess at some point it will be a little bit different. It does feel a little bit different already today, even though, like I said, a lot of it is routine. But yeah, how much and how it will be I don’t know yet. I guess you have to ask me again. If you catch me.”

Stepping away from the cockpit, hard or easy, pining for the rush of adrenaline – 

Vettel: “Well, I don’t know yet, but I definitely thought about a lot of things and about the adrenaline as well. And to me, the peak of the adrenaline was/is always Suzuka, because the track really shows the most the cars can deliver and made me feel most alive compared to, let’s say, maybe other tracks. So yeah, I will miss that and that will be impossible to replace. I can do lots of other things and I have lots of opportunities, probably”.

“I think I’m in a very privileged and lucky position. But when it comes to adrenaline, the sort of feeling alive inside the car, when you feel the forces and the grip and everything around the track, yeah that will disappear, but I feel at some point it’s going to hit all of us – except Fernando! So yeah, I think it’s something we’ll ultimately have to learn to deal with and find something else to maybe replace that in a little way. So yeah, we’ll see,”

A new dawn, a new day, a new life beyond Sunday –

Vettel: “Well, it will be more than a day now. I hope it will be much longer than a day. So I don’t worry about the one day so much. But yeah, like I said, you know, I said nothing earlier. Obviously, I have plenty of ideas. But I think it’s that not having a commitment, not having the race calendar that kicks off by definition in February, not having that January getting ready, visiting the team, getting ready for the new season, seeing the new car. I think a lot of things, you know, that have given me so much to hold on to in the last years, looking forward for them to disappear. Not that I hate them. I don’t hate racing, I love racing. There’s been many moments this year where I loved what I was doing so much. But I think I see it as a challenge”.

“I see it as an opportunity to learn a lot about myself and to put myself in exactly that position that I haven’t been before and I’m not comfortable with, because I think the truth is, after so many years, we know how to do this job, I don’t want to say asleep, because that’s arrogant, but I would say with a lot of routine and a lot of experience. A lot of things don’t surprise you anymore. So I’m looking forward to being surprised and as I said, learn about myself, spend more time with my kids and family, learn together with them, which obviously will be a different challenge to me and a different pace. But yeah, lots of things, and give more room to maybe the things that I naturally didn’t have time for. Because I was doing this. So, yeah, we’ll see. It’s not like I have a calendar and will say in March, this is going to happen, and in April or May this is going to happen. I think I look forward to not having the calendar and then obviously at some point I need to find a lot of things that will keep me busy because I’m a busy, busy bee, busy mind. So yeah.”

From how Vettel made it in the sport with the humbleness, the German became a thorn when battling and winning the titles he did. But ever since then, he has mellowed down with age and experience where he managed to bring all the 20 drivers in one place.

Some of his rivals – especially Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso – have only had nice things to say. The Brit and he came close after the happenings in Baku, while the Spaniard and he had that cut throat battle and since then have had loads of respect.

Here’s what the drivers felt (includes a comic exchange between Hamilton and Vettel) –

Hamilton: “When I think of Seb… he was a bit of a nuisance back then!”

Vettel: “I’m actually quite sorry… it’s your answer but I think Baku wasn’t a great moment, because what I did wasn’t right. But actually from that moment onwards…”

Hamilton: “…Our friendship got better!”

Vettel: “Yeah, a lot better. So I don’t want that moment to… not happen, if you see what I mean!”

Hamilton: “I agree. We always had such great battles, honestly, and I was just thinking, most drivers are coming back. He’s come back [Alonso], you’re probably going to come back. We’re seeing other drivers coming back, so I’m sitting here accepting, yes,  it’s your last race… but… He’ll be back. Formula 1 has a way of sucking you back in. We’ve noticed that from so many other drivers. No?”

Vettel: “Maybe we can make a deal. We’ll speak outside, when you want to get away, maybe I want to come back!”

Hamilton: “And just swap. Alternate.”

Alonso: “Yeah, I mean, it’s going to be strange to don’t have him in next year and the first race. But yeah, I mean, we share, as you said, so many things. Over the last 15 years, sometimes we fought for championships, sometimes for seven places, even in Japan to the finish line, and we still obviously always enjoy every single battle and, and respect each other as much as we could. So yeah, I think my career is going to be linked to Sebastian in a way because we fought for many great things and in the best seasons of our life, probably, and even though it was on his side, the outcome always. I think it’s going be very linked, our two names – or my name in Sebastian’s career, and vice versa.”

Ricciardo: “With Seb, I feel like I’ve been asked a lot, I’m sure we all have since he announced his retirement and only good things to say, let’s start with that. I think as a person I can speak so highly of him. Also, just on a personal level, some things he’s done for me, yeah, just very, very appreciative of. I think he’s a very caring individual. He cares about the sport as a whole, but he also cares about, let’s say, us drivers. We’re all competitors, for sure, but I think he’s definitely able to separate that. And yeah, just look out for us, ultimately. And, yeah, as a competitor, I think back to 2013, when he won every race in the second half of the season. And it was like a relentless approach, like he just wasn’t satisfied. He just wanted to ultimately destroy the competition. And you could just see, like, the raw competitor in him and that drive to not win, but to destroy if you will, and you had to admire and respect that.”

Verstappen: “Well, first of all, of course, he has meant a lot to Red Bull. He came through as a junior and basically achieved all of it in the sport, you know. I mean, he still has a lot of friends within Red Bull, of course all the way up. He’s had a career which a lot of people could only dream of. But at the end of the day, that’s not everything. I think, as a person, he’s always been very caring. Of course, I had my heated battles with him, especially in the beginning of my career. But for me, one thing I will always remember for the rest of my life, last year, in Silverstone, I came back from the hospital to get to my motor-home to get all my stuff and he was there, waiting for me when I got out of the car”.

“And he said, ‘are you OK, Max, how are you doing? Are you okay?’ And that just shows how he is, you know, a super nice, caring person who is not only there for performance, but also means well, you know. I think that’s also really nice to be remembered like that. And yeah, we’ll also do a helmet swap this weekend, so that’s definitely a very nice helmet to have in the collection. He will definitely be missed. But on the other hand, I also really wish him well for the future, whatever he wants to do, to be honest, but I think what is most important is to spend time with family. You know, he’s a real family, man. And that’s great to see and a great example.”

Leclerc: “Again, I can only agree with whatever has been said by Max and Daniel. He has been incredible. He’s achieved so much in the sport. And there is nothing much more to say on that side, but as a person, he’s been incredible. I remember, already in Formula 2, I was doing the simulator work, which, okay, it’s not an easy work to do, because it’s really, really tiring and I thought that Seb probably didn’t even know I was on the simulator. And I received a letter one day, just thanking me for all the hard work. And that meant a lot for me at that time. But that was only a small thing”.

“Then obviously we became teammates in 2019 and 2020 also, where he has taught me really a lot. We’ve had our tense moments on track, but the respect off the track has never changed and he’s always been there for me whenever I had difficult times. And that was very different to what I was used to with my previous teammates. Obviously, in Formula 1 it’s normal, there’s inner competition inside the tea but he has always been super caring and trying to help me whenever I was going through more difficult times. But yeah, he will definitely be missed. I’m sure that he will enjoy his time off the racetrack, and that he will find other things that that makes him happy.”

There’s no doubt Vettel has become a popular driver in his years – even though not as worldwide popular like Hamilton – he has been 100% respected by the whole paddock.  He will be missed, that is for sure. ‘Auf Wiedersehen Seb!’

Here’s the dinner meet for Vettel involving all the drivers which was initiated by Hamilton –

Here’s photos from Lando Norris:

Here’s details of Abu Dhabi GP