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Sebastian Vettel reveals he will RETIRE from Formula One at the end of the season

Two years senior to Sebastian Vettel and nine races longer in the tooth, but Lewis Hamilton is not prompted into thoughts of retirement by the impending departure of the next most successful driver of his era.

Vettel, 35, announced that he plans to quit Aston Martin and the sport in Abu Dhabi in November, the German’s 300th grand prix. His exit from him was not unexpected, though the timing was.

Only a week ago he dropped no hint he was poised to walk away. In fact, he was linked, however erroneously, with a move to McLaren, while Aston Martin anticipated signing him for another year.

Sebastian Vettel has confirmed he will retire from Formula One at the end of the season

Vettel won four world championships during his time in the sport with the Red Bull team

Vettel won four world championships during his time in the sport with the Red Bull team

But on Wednesday he broke news of his retirement to team owner Lawrence Stroll. A retirement statement was issued at 11am on Thursday along with a black-and-white video monologue on Instagram — Vettel’s first post on social media, which he had long resisted.

He had always preferred fountain pen and paper.

He prepares to leave with 53 wins, putting him ahead of every driver other than Hamilton (103) and his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher (91).

Vettel’s four titles, all at Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, represent a haul eclipsed only by the same record-busting duo, both on seven, and Juan Manuel Fangio, on five.

He is level with Alain Prost. None of the above won a world title at a younger age than Vettel — 23 years and 134 days.

Vettel's careers in numbers - The German won four world championships during his time in F1

Vettel’s careers in numbers – The German won four world championships during his time in F1

The 35-year-old announced his end-of-season departure ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix

The 35-year-old announced his end-of-season departure ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix

Vettel also inspired the respect of his colleagues, often as an outspoken director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.

Hamilton led the praise ahead of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, saying: ‘My first feeling is sadness. I’ve often felt relatively lonely on my journey in this sport, but he was one of the few people who made me feel less lonely.

‘He was incredibly quick, very intelligent, a very good engineer and very precise on track. He was a great all-round competitor, very fair but also very strong and firm. He was never someone to blame others for mistakes.’

Hamilton, though, added: ‘It doesn’t make me think about my future. I feel I have plenty to go. When I stop, I will still have fuel in the tank. I won’t go on until I am completely burned out, but I hope that is a while off.’

Vettel has campaigned on environmental issues including saving the bees (above)

Vettel wore a shirt saying 'save the bees' at the Austrian Grand Prix

Vettel has campaigned on environmental issues including saving the bees (above)

Vettel has grown increasingly concerned with F1's impact on the environment in recent years

Vettel has grown increasingly concerned with F1’s impact on the environment in recent years

Vettel cited a few reasons for his decision, including the desire to see his three children grow up, a commitment one hopes will assuage his fears of being ‘scared’ about a possible ‘hole’ in his life.

His care for his loved ones is clear from how assiduously he has always protected them from public view.

He also alluded on Thursday to his increasingly vocal commitment to saving the planet, a concern he knows makes it difficult to excuse the day job. On BBC’s Question Time recently, I have admitted he was a hypocrite, which was disarmingly honest.

In truth, his form and that of his team — he lies 14th in the standings — can hardly have discouraged his departure. Career earnings of some £150million make it possible.

Vettel's best years came at Red Bull where he won the world title four years in a row up to 2013

The German stands with his world championship winning trophy in 2013

Vettel’s best years came at Red Bull where he won the world title four years in a row up to 2013

Vettel's No 1 status in the sport dwindled though as Mercedes started their dominance in 2014

Vettel’s No 1 status in the sport dwindled though as Mercedes started their dominance in 2014

Home comforts in the Swiss countryside with his childhood sweetheart wife Hanna are obviously alluring.

He has always been a keen motor-racing historian and was an avid chaser of records during his salad days.

So where does he stand in the pantheon? Failing to win the title during five years at Ferrari, and creeping mistakes, mean that while he would warrant inclusion on a list of the sport’s top 20 drivers, he would not seriously threaten my top 10.

Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 but was no match for rival Lewis Hamilton during his time there

Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 but was no match for rival Lewis Hamilton during his time there

Vettel departed Ferrari at the end of 2020 having fallen out of favor with the team

Vettel departed Ferrari at the end of 2020 having fallen out of favor with the team

He is probably the third best of his era. Hamilton and Fernando Alonso rank above him. Perhaps Robert Kubica could have said the same but for being robbed of his roaring talent through injury so young.

Max Verstappen, meanwhile, has yet to add longevity to his startling deeds.

But, make no mistake, front-running in a good car when he still possessed the optimism of youth, Vettel shone like blazing coal.

Sir Stirling Moss was a great admirer. I have ranked him as seriously quick. The two got on well.

And when the great man died at his house in Mayfair, among the first and most cherished condolence letters came from Seb’s pen.

He’s a decent man and a fine champion.

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