Sebastian Vettel to retire from F1 at end of season
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Max Verstappen was overlooked by Sebastian Vettel as the German driver named his two toughest opponents during his distinguished career in Formula One. Verstappen secured his second world title at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka and looks destined to match the achievements of four-time world champion Vettel.
Vettel, who has enjoyed 15 years in F1, announced in July that he would retire at the end of the 2022 season. The 35-year-old has endured two difficult campaigns at Aston Martin and is now in reflective mood as he looks to end his final four races on a high.
Verstappen became the first Red Bull Drivers’ Championship winner since Vettel with his dramatic maiden triumph over Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi in 2021. He has since claimed a dominant second crown and a period of sustained success akin to Vettel’s four consecutive title wins between 2010 and 2013 now appears ominous.
Verstappen’s status as an elite world champion is not disputed but he has seldom come into direct battle with Vettel during his five years in F1. Vettel’s most challenging battles during his time at the front of the grid in the seats of Red Bull and Ferrari instead came against Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
“Lewis, especially when I was at Ferrari. Lewis has always been right up there. Before that, it was probably Fernando [Alonso] when he was at Ferrari,” Vettel told Aston Martin’s official website, when asked about his toughest opponent.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton was Vettel’s key rival as he targeted a fifth world title in his five-year stint with Ferrari. Alonso, meanwhile, has almost been an ever-present since the German took to the grid for the first time in the 2007 campaign.
The Spaniard is now set to replace Vettel in the Aston Martin for the 2023 campaign, but the veteran will not need any tips to succeed, according to his once great rival.
“Fernando doesn’t need any advice,” Vettel said. “I’m not sure he’s taking any advice, but he doesn’t need it anyway. He’s been around for so long and seen so much – he’ll be fine.”
Vettel has had to adjust to being in midfield in a far-less competitive car in his last two seasons in F1. But the German insists his experience at Aston Martin has still been worthwhile, despite not being able to compete for race wins.
“I don’t think it was a useless two years, even though the results and points we scored weren’t that useful or what we hoped for,” he added. “I’ve loved working with the team, getting to know different people and different approaches.
“These two years have been very challenging because I wasn’t familiar with running at the back of the field. It has been a new experience, tough at times, and I realised a lot.”
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