‘Seb was the first one’: Lewis Hamilton hails Sebastian Vettel for gesture

Sebastian Vettel will be retiring from Formula 1 at the end of the season at the age of 35.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix always comes with a mix of emotions, with some drivers being crowned champions, some saying goodbye to a specific team, and some saying their farewells to the sport as a whole.

Last year it was Kimi Raikkonen who called it a day, and now it is the turn of Sebastian Vettel to bid an emotional goodbye to Formula 1 on the final race of the season.

The German has had a hard fought rivalry with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton over his career, with the two driving greats battling it out for the title during Vettel’s spells with Red Bull and Ferrari, however in recent times the two have developed a strong bond.

In the latter stages of his career, Vettel has become very vocal about his beliefs, and has never shyed away from standing up for what is right, something which Hamilton has said he admires and will miss.

READ: Max Verstappen reacts to Lewis Hamilton retirement decision

“Out of all the drivers that I’ve raced with, Seb was the first one to stand by me and take the knee with me,” said Hamilton, referring to the Black Lives Matter gesture of taking the knee before races.

“He is the first one to go out of his way to fight for things he cares about. I don’t believe I’ve seen any driver in the history of the sport do what he and I have been doing in terms of utilising the platform, being outspoken and taking that risk.”

Not everyone shares the same opinion as Hamilton however, with former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone claiming that the German has changed over the course of his F1 career.

The pair were initially very close friends during Vettel’s early career and the 92-year-old has said he is surprised by the character arc of the German driver, with the shy young Red Bull driver being a figure of the past.

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“He has changed,” he said.

“When I first met him, he was a little boy. Very shy and very polite, now he’s grown into a real man who knows how to take care of himself, knows what he wants to do and who goes on and does it.

“I don’t know what made him change his direction and attitude,” Ecclestone admitted.

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“Before, he always had an opinion that he didn’t mention to the people. Now he has an outlet for his opinion, so he lets people know what he thinks.

He wants to help everyone and the world in any way he can. I just miss him as a person and as a racer.”

Fans will have the chance to purchase a photo slot on Vettel’s final ever race helmet, with all the money raised going directly to charity, another amazing gesture from the German to add to the collection of his good deeds.