Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel has decided to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the current season.
The German entered the sport in 2007 with Sauber, scoring points on his debut at the US Grand Prix while standing in for the injured Robert Kubica.
A move to Toro Rosso followed later that season, and he scored points in China before winning his first race at the Italian Grand Prix the following year with the Red Bull junior side.
The now 35-year-old earned a move to Red Bull as a result in 2009, and he would finish second in the championship to Jenson Button, winning four of the 17 races that year.
Then came history. Vettel added a further 34 wins to his tally over the course of four years between 2010 and 2013, winning the title and becoming the first driver to win four consecutive championships since his hero Michael Schumacher the decade previous.
Following a difficult 2014 season, he said farewell to Red Bull and moved on to Ferrari, with whom he took 14 victories and challenged Sir Lewis Hamilton for the title in 2017 and 2018, but Mercedes were simply too strong.
He departed the Italian side without a championship in tow, but a lot of good memories made, before joining Aston Martin at the beginning of last year.
The four-time champion stood on the podium at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last season, but this has been one of few highlights for the British side, who current sit ninth in the Constructors’ Championship.
There had been speculation about his future in recent months, and he is out of contract at the end of this season.
Team principal Mike Krack has asserted that he wants his compatriot to stay, and Vettel himself affirmed that there was a “clear intention” to continue with the Silverstone-based side.
But, alas, one of the greats of the sport has decided to call it a day.
“I hereby announce my retirement from Formula 1 by the end of the 2022 season,” Vettel said on his new Instagram account.
“Probably, I should start with a long list of people to thank now, but I feel it is more important to explain the reasons behind my decision.
“I love this sport, it has been central to my life since I can remember.
“But as much as there is life on track, there is my life off track too.
“Being a racing driver has never been my sole identity; I very much believe in identity by who we are and how we treat others, rather than what we do.
“Who am I? I’m Sebastian, father of three children and husband to a wonderful woman.
“I am curious and easily fascinated by passionate or skilled people.
“I am obsessed with perfection, I am tolerant, and feel we all have the same rights to live no matter what we look like, where we come from, and who we love.
“I love being outside, and love nature and its wonders.
“I am stubborn and impatient, I can be really annoying; I like to make people laugh, I like chocolate and the smell of fresh bread.
“My favourite colour is blue, I believe in change and progress and that every little bit makes a difference.
“I am an optimist and I believe people are good.
“Next to racing, I have grown a family, and I love being around them, I have grown other interests outside Formula 1, my passion for racing and Formula 1 comes with lots of time spent away from them, and takes a lot of energy.
“Committing to my passion the way I did and the way I think it is right, does no longer go side by side with my wish to be a great father and husband.
“The energy it takes to become one with the car and the team to chase perfection takes focus and commitment.
“My goals have shifted from winning races and fighting for championships to seeing my children grow, passing on my values, helping them up when they fall, listening to them when they need me, not having to say goodbye and, most importantly, being able to learn from them and let them inspire me.
“Children are our future, further I feel there is so much to explore and learn about life and about myself.”
In recent years, Vettel has stood for environmental awareness, equality and social justice, and he will now embark on a new challenge – saving the world.
“Speaking of the future, I feel we live in very decisive times,” he explained.
“And how we all shape these next years will determine our lives.
“My passion comes with certain aspects that I have learned to dislike, they might be solved in the future, but the will to apply that change has to grow much, much stronger, and has to be leading to action today.
“Talk is not enough and we cannot afford to wait, there is no alternative.
“The race is underway.
“My best race? Still to come. I believe in moving forwards and moving on, time is a one-way street and I want to go with the times.
“Looking back is only going to slow you down; I look forward to race down unknown tracks and I will be finding new challenges.
“The marks I left on track will stay until time and rain will wash them away; new ones will be put down.
“Tomorrow belongs to those shaping today, the next corner is in good hands as the new generation has already turned in.
“I believe there is still a race to win; farewell and thanks for letting me share the track with you – I loved every bit of it.”
Vettel has 10 races remaining with Aston Martin in Formula 1, and he will depart with a loving fanbase, and the respect of everyone who has watched him, worked with him, and competed against him in his illustrious career.
Just hours before announcing his retirement, Vettel created an official Instagram account, backtracking on his decision not to have a presence on social media.