Fifteen years after his debut in the premier category of motorsport, the four-time German world champion Sebastian Vettel will end his career in F1 at the end of the current season, he announced yesterday Thursday. “The decision to stop F1 at the end of the year was difficult and I thought about it a lot. At the end of the year, I want to take the time to think about what I want to do next,” Vettel said in a statement from his Aston Martin team released ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend. “As a father, I want to spend more time with my family. Today is not about saying goodbye, but rather saying thank you to everyone, starting with the fans without whom F1 could not exist.
The 35-year-old Vettel won four world championship titles in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 with Red Bull and 53 Grands Prix. Only Briton Lewis Hamilton (103 wins) and his compatriot Michael Schumacher (91) have done better than him. After moving to Ferrari from 2015 to 2020, he joined Aston Martin in 2021 without winning any races there so far. Vettel had notably failed during his time at Ferrari to offer the Italian team a new world drivers’ title, which would have been the first since that of the Finn Kimi Raikkonen in 2007. Thanked by the Italian brand in fairly stormy while the Scuderia was at the bottom of the wave, Vettel had taken refuge at Aston Martin, the team of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll whose son, Lance, is currently his teammate.
After a difficult 2021 season which he ended in 12th place in the world championship, Vettel is not doing better this season and currently occupies 14th place in the provisional classification with only 15 points. A difficult end to his career for the man who dominated F1. After taking part in test sessions with the Swiss team Sauber, Vettel made his racing debut at Toro Rosso (now Alpha Tauri) in 2007 before becoming, at the time, the youngest winner of a Grand Prix in history (Monza in 2008) at 21 years 2 months and 11 days. This record has since been broken by Dutchman Max Verstappen. He remains one of the most successful drivers in terms of world championships behind Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton (7 each), Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio (5) and tied with Frenchman Alain Prost (4 therefore).
In the shadow of Schumacher
But his time at Ferrari, if it resulted in 14 Grand Prix victories, did not lead to any additional title, Vettel finishing twice on the 2nd step of the podium (2017 and 2018) behind Lewis Hamilton and his mercedes. His last year there had been disastrous (13th in the championship) and it was in a very tense atmosphere that the German had left a Scuderia already turned towards the young Monaco hopeful Charles Leclerc.
Discreet – he is the only driver who does not want to be present on social networks –, very jealous of his private and family life, Vettel nevertheless passes for a true connoisseur of the history of motorsport and an avid collector of motorcycles and cars. . Like Hamilton, he does not hesitate to get involved in defending causes such as ecology and environmental protection. As such, he is a great promoter of synthetic fuels, considered to be the way of the future for F1.
Despite his successes, however, he remains in the shadow of his illustrious compatriot Michael Schumacher. Ironically, according to rumors from the paddock, it is the son of this one, Mick Schumacher, who replaces him next year at Aston Martin.
The Red Bull breakaway
“I have to regain the upper hand if I want to be world champion”: left at the fault at the Grand Prix de France last Sunday, Charles Leclerc must win in Hungary this Sunday, the last F1 Grand Prix before the summer break, to avoid not let Max Verstappen escape the championship for good. The Monegasque from Scuderia Ferrari would have hoped to have a better summer than the one that is emerging. He knows he lost big in France, when he was leading the race, after going off the track due to pilot error. If he remains 2nd in the championship, Leclerc is now relegated to 63 points behind the Red Bull of Verstappen, an easy winner on the Castellet route. Worse, Leclerc sees the other Red Bull come back from Mexican Sergio Pérez, who is only 7 points behind him at the dawn of the last Grand Prix before a three-week break. Revanchard, the Monegasque will therefore try on the narrow circuit of the Hungaroring, a few kilometers from Budapest, to limit the breakage to defend his place of runner-up, against two Red Bulls well back on track after a complicated start to the season.
This season, only Ferrari manages to compete in performance with the Red Bull… when the drivers of the prancing horse team finish the races. After twelve rounds contested since March, the Scuderia, 2nd in the constructors’ championship, is the team with the most retirements (7). She no longer has room for error. “Things are just more complicated, but (the title) is not impossible,” assured his boss Mattia Binotto, after the French round on the Paul-Ricard circuit. “The most important thing is to see that we have the potential. There’s no reason why we can’t win the last ten races,” he said. However, between the engine failures, the dubious strategic decisions or the errors of Leclerc and his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr, not to mention the talent of Verstappen in a very powerful Red Bull… there are reasons. A monster of composure, the Dutchman remains lucid in his quest for a second consecutive world title, even with so much in advance: “In Budapest, I think it will be a little more difficult for us, I think Ferrari will be very, very fast. »
Faced with Red Bull (396 pts) and Ferrari (314 pts), we also expect the third force, Mercedes (270 pts), back within shooting distance of the Scuderia thanks to the double podium of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at Le Castellet. The German manufacturer has a total of five podiums in the last four Grands Prix – and, in this regard, does better than its opponents. But still winless this season. Hamilton, who holds the record for victories at the Hungaroring, could see in France that his Silver Arrow was not at the level of Verstappen’s single-seater. If Mercedes was able to afford this double podium, it is above all thanks to the misadventures of Ferrari (abandonment of Leclerc, penalty for Sainz Jr).
Ocon, the year after
The Hungarian track could also be an opportunity to shine for an outsider, like Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who won his first victory there last season in the premier category. On the Hungaroring, the Norman, taking full advantage of the clashes of a chaotic start to the race, then had the perfect race. He had withstood three world champions until the end – Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, 13 world titles between them – and was rewarded, at the end of the suspense, at the wheel of his Alpine.
Alpine, who also snatched 4th place in the constructors’ standings from McLaren last Sunday on home soil, will she feel the wings in Hungary? After the warm-up for the three hours of free practice today (two sessions) and tomorrow (one session), we will have to wait for qualifying, also tomorrow, to get the first answers.
Fifteen years after his debut in the premier category of motorsport, the four-time German world champion Sebastian Vettel will end his career in F1 at the end of the current season, he announced yesterday Thursday. “The decision to stop F1 at the end of the year was difficult and I thought about it a lot. At the end of the year, I want to take the…