Lewis Hamilton brands Sebastian Vettel a ‘legend in realness’ despite prior tensions

Sebastian Vettel is to leave Formula 1 at the end of the 2022 season.

Formula 1 drivers have been speaking fondly about Sebastian Vettel in the aftermath of the announcement of his retirement at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old made an Instagram account on Thursday morning, before posting a video of himself sitting down and explaining the reasons for his departure.

Vettel will leave the pinnacle of motorsport with four world championships and 53 race wins with Toro Rosso, Ferrari and Red Bull, and he stood on the podium with Aston Martin at last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The German was briefly on the rostrum at the Hungarian Grand Prix last year before he was disqualified due to a fuel irregularity, and it is ahead of this year’s race in Budapest that one of the greats of the sport confirms that he will not be renewing his contract.

READ: Fernando Alonso in pole position to replace Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin, but don’t rule out Daniel Ricciardo

Sir Lewis Hamilton has shared the podium with Vettel 56 times, the last of which arriving at the Mexican Grand Prix in 2019, and the pair fought for the title in 2010, 2017 and 2018, so there is an enormous amount of respect between two drivers who share so many common values off the track too.

“I see him as such a legend of our sport,” he said of his former title rival.

“And when we’re talking about legends, there’s not many that I count as legends in realness but he’s at the top of that.”

Vettel is a great friend to Haas driver Mick Schumacher having shared a great relationship with his father and seven-time champion Michael for many years.

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The 23-year-old may well replace Vettel at Aston Martin next season, but he wishes his compatriot a happy retirement.

“It’s obviously sad on one side but I’m happy for him that he’s taken the decision that he now gets a chance to spend so much time with his family, and gets to do what he wants to do at the end,” said Schumacher.

“And that’s also sometimes, I could imagine, not to live by a schedule, so I just wish him all the best, I’m sure I’ll see him still besides the track and that we’ll have a lot of fun even if it’s only on one horsepower.”

Charles Leclerc partnered Vettel at Ferrari in 2019 and 2020 and, although they shared a short tenure together, they became great friends as a result.

Almost unbelievably, they only stood on the podium together twice in that time, but the Monegasque will be more than happy to share the paddock with him again in the future.

“In the end, our relationship has been very strong and he’s just a super nice guy,” added Leclerc.

“I just wish him the best and, as I told him before, I will always have one or two passes if he wants to come to a race because I’ll be very happy to see him in the paddock still next year.”

Williams driver Nicholas Latifi appreciates for Vettel has done, not just for F1, but for the world of sport as a whole.

“It’s been a pleasure to share the track with him,” said the Canadian.

“His track record speaks for itself and what he’s accomplished in this sport, but I think more importantly – and he would probably say more importantly – what he’s done off the track, the kind of role model he’s been for not only us drivers, but also athletes in general.”

Fernando Alonso battled Vettel for the championship in 2010 and 2012 as the now 35-year-old came out on top both times with Red Bull.

READ: Toto Wolff weighs in on Sebastian Vettel’s future as retirement talk continues

The pair have previously shared a somewhat frosty relationship, but that has massively changed over the years, and they might even consider each other friend now.

“When we see him, he is a legend of our sport,” explained Alonso.

“Not only on track, but also great values outside the car so we will miss him.”

Alfa Romeo rookie Zhou Guanyu saw Vettel and Alonso as idols growing up, so knows what the retiring Vettel means to F1.

“Sebastian is the guy that I’ve been looking up to since the early stage,” said Zhou.

“I was supporting Fernando, he was the guy who was very quick when he won the championship, so I think he’s a big name for the sport.”

Pierre Gasly has come to know and respect the person Vettel is off track, as well as the racing driver on it.

“I have massive respect for Seb and what he has achieved in our sport, first of all,” said the Frenchman.

“Because, four-time world champion, not many guys achieve such records, but I must say I really respect the person he became in Formula 1.

“Very honest, very genuine, very kind, always speaking up for his ideas, whether they are good or bad!

“He always shares his opinion and I really respect that.”

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez has been racing with Vettel since 2011, so he has gotten to know Vettel very well since he started his career with Sauber – the same team the four-time champion got his debut with.

“It’s sad to see someone that you’ve spent so much of your life together with [leave], so I mean it’s great to see him leaving, especially such a happy retirement and yeah, wishing him the best and his family in the next chapter,” said Perez.

Max Verstappen labelled Vettel a “great ambassador” for F1, while Lando Norris observed that the Aston Martin driver is “always open for a chat.”

Vettel’s team-mate, Lance Stroll, called him a “great team player,” and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz sees the German as a “great role model.”