It’s difficult for most professional athletes to let go. The time, energy, and preparation sunk into their sport often goes back to their childhood, which makes leaving the game feel like a loss of one’s purpose. However, for four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel the move seems easy, and it’s coming naturally.
On Thursday the 35-year-old announced he was stepping away from the sport following the 2022 season. Vettel sat on a simple stool, in front of a taped up green screen, in stark black-and-white, to explain his motivations for leaving the sport, and his plans for the future.
Not wasting any time, Vettel got the news out immediately, “I hereby announce my retirement from Formula 1 by the end of the 2022 season.” It was jarring, efficient, and it felt that way by design. The driving force behind Vettel’s retirement video wasn’t to wistfully remember the past, but excitedly look towards the future — a future Vettel is deeply concerned about.
The driver spoke of his family, a desire to spend more time with them and not need to say goodbye before jetting off to another race. Vettel also indicated that continuing to race is preventing him from doing critical work he wants to be a part of away from the track — but went a step further to say the values of the sport are no longer aligned with his. This element is important, because it’s a subtle nod to the friction Vettel and his Aston Martin team have due to the driver’s outspoken support of environmental issues.
Vettel famously denounced Canada’s mining in the Alberta oil sands prior to the Canadian GP, and when he was called a hypocrite by racing for Aston Martin, owned by oil giant Saudi Aramco, Vettel agreed it was hypocritical — denounced his own brand, but said the focus needed to be on climate change as a whole, rather than calling out hypocrisy. In addition, Vettel is a staunch supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, saying the sport is ready for a driver from the LGBTQ+ community, and wearing a rainbow suit and mask before the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2021, protesting prime minister Victor Orban’s push for anti-LGBTQ legislature.
This is a man who isn’t upset to be walking away, but excited for what comes next. An athlete completely at peace with turning the sport over to a new generation, while anticipating what’s next in his life. Sebatian Vettel leaves the sport as one of the greatest drivers of all time, and he’s ready to write his next chapter.