‘Sad’ Sebastian Vettel aiming high in final Japanese Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel will start the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix ninth on Sunday, after a great qualifying performance.

As a four-time winner of the Japanese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel knows better than most of the remarkable feeling a racing driver gets at the Suzuka Circuit.

The German is at his final Japanese Grand Prix this weekend having announced his retirement earlier on in the year, and he has qualified in the top 10 at every race he has contested in Mie Prefecture.

It is a joy to watch drivers navigate the first sector of the lap and, when they hook it up, it is surely one of the best feelings they can experience, so Vettel has been making most of that this weekend.

This is particularly the case in qualifying, with the drivers pushing hard to gain as much time as possible, and attacking the twisty uphill slalom with everything they had.

READ: Sebastian Vettel says he’s open to F1 return under certain circumstances

Vettel, as ever, made that look easy on Saturday, and he navigated his way through to the third and final qualifying session with some thunderous lap times in the Aston Martin.

It all led him to ninth on the grid and, aware that they had extracted all they could from the car, and that Vettel could do with saving his tyres, they sent him out for a lap of honour after his one and only Q3 run.

The 35-year-old waved to the crowd and proclaimed his love of one of the most iconic racetracks in all of motorsport.

His enjoyment of Suzuka is something that makes him want to come back for a one-off appearance one day, but as incredible as Suzuka is, it has not changed the four-time champion’s mind about retiring.

Article continues below

“No, it’s more laps that like this make me a bit, not regret because I look forward to what’s coming, but a bit sad that it’s the last time,” Vettel told Sky Sports.

“Saturday here is different to Sunday because Sunday you have more fuel in the car, it’s more managing and different discipline in a way. 

“Saturday is really when you’re flying. We’re far away from P1 but still the feeling in the car is something special when the fuel is light and the tyres are fresh.”

Vettel’s lap, proportionately, felt every bit as good as the ones that have taken him to five pole positions at Suzuka in the past.

“Yes, if you don’t look on the scoreboard where we ended up, I think the feeling is pretty much the same in terms of how happy I was with the laps that I had today and the final one again,” he explained. 

“I love this place. I love this track. You just feel more alive. When you’re battling with the car and then yourself up that first sector, it’s just a big smile every time.”

The 53-time race winner reckons that the chunky rear wing, designed to capitalise on corners, has helped Aston Martin this weekend, and he is optimistic of scoring points on Sunday.

“We also have quite a big rear wing on, maybe it helps, but we will see,” added Vettel.

“We will see what happens, we have nothing to lose. 

READ: Watch: Onboard Sebastian Vettel’s lightning start at Singapore

“Obviously, it’s tight in the championship, constructors’ and we want to score some points. 

“On paper, this is probably not the best track for us [but] we had a good day today so why not again tomorrow?”

Vettel is now into his final five race weekends as a Formula 1 driver.