With the news of Sebastian Vettel’s retirement from Formula 1 at the end of the season, the sport will lose another of its most experienced drivers.
The German’s retirement will mean that from 2023, only four drivers on the grid will have competed in F1 for over 10 years, with the next generation continuing to take hold of the pinnacle of motorsport.
Sir Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Pérez and Daniel Ricciardo, will be the only drivers remaining from the illusive ten year-plus club.
Hamilton and Vettel in particular have been trying to make the sport a better place for younger drivers, with Vettel having been a director for the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association since 2010.
The GDPA is a voice for drivers, to share and discuss concerns over their safety, among other key matters.
People have questioned if the championship will become a worse place once the older drivers all eventually retire.
Hamilton doesn’t see this happening, as it’d be an “awful waste” of the time Vettel and himself have spent making the paddock a greater place.
“We’re hoping that our work leads it to a better place,” Hamilton said.
“That’s the work that I’ve tried to do, what Seb’s been trying to do here, really igniting the fire of sparking conversations, to leave the place a better sport than it was when we found it.
“I think Seb has definitely had a huge role to play in that and there’s still a lot of work to do.
“I don’t know if Seb is going to do more work, continue on the work in the background with the sport or not. I doubt he’ll come back and do commentary, but you can never say never!
“But, yeah, I do hope it’s in a better place. It would’ve been an awful waste of time if not.”
As well as having a high role in the GDPA, Vettel has used his voice and position as an F1 driver to support campaigns such as environmental change and the LGBTQ+ community.
The four-time World Champion has done so despite being paid by a Saudi Arabian Oil Company, Aramco, who are the title partner of the Aston Martin F1 Team.
Since becoming an activist, Vettel has faced numerous accusations of being a hypocrite” yet has continued to demonstrate support for a number of campaigns and organisations.
Hamilton is hoping that the next generation of F1 drivers will have been inspired by what Vettel has done, with the hope that they’ll take on the baton and use their voices in a similar fashion to the Aston Martin driver.
“Ultimately I think that in general we often stand on the shoulders of greats from the past, whether it’s in this sport or other sports,” Hamilton said.
“I really hope he inspires the next generation. Whether it’s this one or the younger generation that will be coming through, to be more confident in utilising their platform, realising it’s not just about them and their car.
“It’s about something far, far bigger than being here. I really hope we see more people like him.
“But, I can’t guarantee that, because I think he’s rare.”
Some want Vettel to remain in the paddock in an official role, so that his voice can continue to be heard.
Whilst it’s unlikely for the time being that this will happen, Hamilton predicts that Vettel is “going to be great, if he applies himself the way he has here with the bravery and sheer determination he’s had,” no matter what he goes onto do post-F1.