Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2022 season, closing the book on one of the most legendary careers in Formula 1 history.
It’s rare for an athlete’s name to become a symbol for the sport in which he or she took part. There are just a select handful of names in each sport whose success defines what it means to be an icon of the game: Ronaldo and Messi to soccer, Jordan and LeBron to basketball, Brady and Jerry Rice to football, and Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds to baseball. When it comes to Formula 1, Sebastian Vettel’s name is right up there among the legends.
Despite Vettel’s announcement on Instagram that he will step away from Formula 1 at the end of the 2022 season, his legacy on the track will leave a lasting impact on the drivers of today, tomorrow, and the foreseeable future.
Vettel will go down in history as one of the most charismatic individuals in the sport, helping to grow the sport and put Red Bull on the map as a racing powerhouse.
He is also a driver who, week in and week out, left everything out on the track.
Such tenacity led Sebastian Vettel to four straight world championships from 2010 to 2013, a feat accomplished only by Juan Manuel Fangio and Lewis Hamilton and surpassed only by Michael Schumacher. His 53 victories put him third in Formula 1 history, and his 2010 world championship made him the youngest champion ever.
But Vettel is more than a driver. He was a mentee to Michael Schumacher and now plays the role of mentor to Michael’s son, Haas driver Mick Schumacher.
But Vettel’s most important title is being a husband and a father, something he feels defines him best.
“Who am I? I am Sebastian, father of three children and husband to a wonderful woman,” he said in his speech.
Vettel also stressed the importance of making change in Formula 1, in a reference to the environmental and social impacts the sport has on the world. He has become more outspoken in his activism in recent months, wearing shirts supporting marriage equality and taking action to curb global warming.
In his closing remarks, Sebastian Vettel mentioned that the impact he leaves on the sport “will stay until time and rain wash them away”.
But for many fans of Formula 1, Vettel’s influence simply can’t ever be washed away. He has cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats in the history of racing, and no amount of time nor rain can wash away the history he made.
While his time on the track will come to a close soon, his next steps will likely keep him in the public eye.
“I believe there is still a race to win,” he said. “Farewell and thanks for letting me share the track with you. I loved every bit of it.”