With the new season just a couple of months away, it’s still bizarre to think that Sebastian Vettel won’t be on the grid, with the popular German having retired following the conclusion of the 2022 season.
Vettel enjoyed an incredible career, one which saw him claim four World Championships and 53 victories, enough to put him third on the all-time list for most wins in the sport.
His retirement is something that has been heavily questioned, with the 35-year-old having actually ended his career following some strong performances, resulting in Lewis Hamilton being certain that his former rival will “come back”.
“I think we always had such great, great battles, honestly. And I was just sitting here thinking most drivers are coming back, like Fernando [Alonso],” he said in Abu Dhabi.
“You’re probably going to come back,” Hamilton added, talking directly to Vettel.
“We’re seeing other drivers coming back. So I’m sitting here kind of accepting, yes, it’s your last race, but he’ll be back.
“Formula 1 has a way of sucking you back in and we’ve noticed that from so many other drivers.”
Vettel replied by joking: “We can make a deal. We’ll speak outside. When you want to get away maybe then I’d want to get back…”
2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg believes Vettel was able to enjoy a “nice end” to his F1 career, with him having claimed some strong points finishes in the final few races of the season.
Vettel was seemingly driving with zero pressure on his shoulders, resulting in some superb displays.
Whether the timing of his retirement was correct, though, is something Rosberg believes his fellow German can only “answer himself”.
“There have been phases in which he drove fantastic again, for example at the end of this season. But that was not always the case,” Rosberg told Germany’s Sport1.
“But in the last races, it seemed like he was liberated and he drove like in his best period. He drove brilliant races and showed incredible things.
“In Austin, he was in the lead and in Brazil he was fourth or fifth with a car that was extremely slow. That was very strong and because of that, I believe he had a nice end to his career.
“Whether he stopped at the right time, that’s a question only he can answer himself.”
Vettel’s first racing appearance since retiring from F1 will be at the Race of Champions this month in Sweden, where he’ll partner up with Mick Schumacher to form Team Germany.
The German has expressed how much he’s looking forward to time away from racing, with so much of his life having been dedicated to travelling and competing across the globe.
Former Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, though, believes Vettel will be seen competing in some form of motorsport before too long, with Formula E being the “perfect” home for him.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he started something else in motorsport,” the Australian said via Speed Week.
“Formula E would be perfect for him! No, kidding.
“Sebastian will spend a lot of time with the family as advertised, that’s very understandable. He’ll see what it’s like not to be caught in the treadmill anymore and to be able to do something else.
“He’ll have time to think. And he’s an incredibly successful guy, very wealthy. He has a choice and all the options.”