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Why Vettel fears falling into a “hole” after F1 retirement

Life after F1 is a challenge that every driver faces at one time or another. Some leave already knowing that they will move sideways into another category of racing. Others slip easily into the role of TV pundit, or perhaps switch their efforts to mentoring a son who shows signs of being a future world champion.

The general rule is that most drivers have been so immersed in motorsport for their entire lives, and have spent so much time at circuits, that they find it hard to stray very far away from the world that they know.

There are some exceptions, however. Carlos Reutemann turned his attention to politics in his native Argentina, while Jody Scheckter avoided racing for years, building up a business empire in the USA before switching to farming in the UK, and following the more familiar route of helping his sons to climb the motor sporting ladder.

More: What did F1 drivers do after racing?

It’s obvious that Vettel will not become a couch potato, or hang around at circuits looking lost. He is a workaholic, unable to sit still for long, and his wide-ranging interests in environmental and social issues will open all sorts of doors away from racing.

Should he choose to stay connected to the sport, he won’t be short of offers from teams and other organisations.

We can assume that he probably won’t be too excited about taking on a purely ambassadorial role for a manufacturer or sponsor.

However, he’d be a pretty good management or consultant hire for a Porsche or an Audi, if given the opportunity to make a genuine contribution, although he won’t want to spend 24 weekends at races.

Some of his colleagues have made it clear that they’d like him to remain connected to the GPDA, although in Alex Wurz the organization already has a former driver on board.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, hugs Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Speaking in Hungary on Thursday just a few hours after his announcement, Vettel said that he currently has no firm plans.

“The way I’m working is I’m always looking forward to what’s next,” I explained.

“I’ve said earlier today that the best race is still to come, which obviously you could say is bullshit. If I’m stopping, which race is going to come if you’re not racing anymore?

“But I think I’m referring to it in a bigger picture, as in life. And I think for every sportsman and woman probably the biggest challenge is waiting for us once we decide to do other things. So that’s what I’m facing .”

Despite all those outside interests and his desire to spend time with his family, Vettel is self-aware enough to acknowledge that it won’t be easy to fill the void that F1 leaves in the lives of every retired driver.

“In all honesty, I’m also scared of what’s coming, because it might be a hole. I don’t know how deep it is, and whether I will get out of it.

“But I think I have lots of support, lots of people that have helped me along the way so far, and will continue to help me, and give me direction, guidance.

“And hopefully I will make the right decisions also in the future to progress and become a better version of myself in 10 years’ time.”

At heart Vettel is still a racer, like everyone else on the grid. He makes no secret of what he will miss the most.

“Well, the buzz of driving the car and the adrenaline you get fighting on the track. Of course, I thought about that as well, that I will say no to that, and there’s probably not really a replacement.

Sebastian VettelAston Martin

Sebastian VettelAston Martin

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“I’ve also looked at others, and how they handled it, and tried maybe to find something else that gives them the adrenaline rush or buzz. As far as I can tell, with no knowledge of it, because I’m here now today and I still have 10 races to go, next year will be different.

“But it’s something you have to be prepared to – and I feel I’m prepared to as much as I can be today – to say that it’s gone, it will not be there.

“If I want to race something, my kids want to race me every day in all sorts of things. Some of them I enjoy more, some less! If I want to race something, I’m sure I’ll be able to think But yeah, I think it would be wrong to step away knowing that you still want to race, sort of thing.”

Still only 35, Vettel hasn’t entirely ruled out driving in other categories. While he has no immediate plans to try something else, many others have taken a year or two out and then returned in WEC or touring cars, with a less punishing travel schedule.

“It will be my last race in F1,” he said when asked about what might happen after Abu Dhabi. “I don’t know. Obviously, age-wise it’s not a problem to do anything else and to do more in F1. That’s not the limit I have.

“I think physically, I’m in a great shape, I have zero problem driving these cars. So there’s nothing that would hold me back on that front. I can’t say yes, and I can’t say no, because obviously , the decision I’m taking now is that this chapter is ending.

“I’m not saying this chapter is ending because another one is opening straight away, and I’m driving other cars next year. That’s not the decision I’m taking.

“It’s really looking at a big change, and how I will cope, like I said before, I don’t know. Time will tell, I think it’s probably the fairest answer I can give right now.”

Sebastian VettelAston Martin

Sebastian VettelAston Martin

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

It’s clear that one way or another Vettel will pursue his environmental campaigns, although he acknowledges that he would have a bigger voice if he remained an active driver. However, he’s prepared to deal with that lower profile.

“I think it would be the wrong motivation to keep doing what I’ve always done, to be competitive and to win, just to express your opinion, or your opinion on some topics. I think that it would be the wrong motivator.

“Obviously, I thought about that as well. So maybe I will lose voice and reach. But to me voice and reach have never been at the foreground, it has always been sort of the message, because it’s what I really believe in.

“I do see that we are having the biggest challenge, or facing the biggest challenge, humanity has ever faced. And if we don’t win this race then the world will keep spinning, but without us.

“I’m into the subject, and I think once you become aware maybe it’s also a little bit the habit or a little bit the character you grow to, when you know you are always trying to find the next thing, the next thing, trying to be curious about what could make you faster, what could give you an edge.

“It’s the same sort of characteristic that made me look for more answers, ask more questions, and it leads on to the next thing.

“And by realizing how big the challenge is there’s a big temptation to get into a negative spiral, and to sort of panic and become very anxious about the future.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22, is returned to the garage

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22, is returned to the garage

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“But at the same time, I’m reading a lot and hearing a lot and meeting a lot of people that are shifting the world in a great direction and making the world a better place and really fighting, committing and sacrificing their lives even, to make it a better place in the future.

“So, yeah, plenty to be done. But I think at the foreground has always been my beliefs, not an agenda or campaign.”

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Vettel has made it clear that family and his other interests will be the priority after November, but he acknowledges that the future is an open book, and he doesn’t know how the story will unfold.

“The answer if you say are these things satisfying you enough? I don’t know, time will tell. Always when you decide to head into a different direction, you don’t really know what’s waiting for you being behind the corner.

“But I’m very curious to find out, and more curious to find out what’s next, than hanging on to what’s now.”

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, signing autographs for fans

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, signing autographs for fans

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

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