The German driver retired from Formula One after his final race in Abu Dhabi.
As Sebastian Vettel does donuts for one last time in Abu Dhabi, F1 says goodbye to one of its most fairytale legends. The reception he received from fans and drivers shows how highly he is regarded in the world of Formula 1. There were a few things at stake, but the Abu Dhabi weekend was all about Sebastian Vettel.
He won four back-to-back titles from 2010 to 2013 and was seen as a ‘villain’ in Formula 1. But till his last lap, he valued being a loved man more than anything. That’s what earned him the utmost respect in the paddock. “A guard of honour? I have never seen this in Formula 1, for anyone. I have never seen it!”, said broadcaster Will Buxton in F1’s post-race discussion.
Ahead of his final race, Vettel had the warmest of interactions with his old rivals. He was assigned his final press conference with Hamilton and Alonso to reminisce about the old times. In this article, we go through some of the most fierce and iconic rivalries of Sebastian Vettel in the 15 years of his Formula 1 career.
Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso had some of the classiest wheel-to-wheel fights over the decade. The two have been involved in some of the closest championship battles ever fought. In 2010, Alonso in Ferrari was just four points shy of Vettel in his getting the third Formula 1 world title. In a four-way championship battle, Alonso had a slow start and later brushed the barrier, resulting in an early pitstop. He didn’t gain positions as quickly as he would have expected. He could only finish P8, while Vettel gained all of the 25 points to see him through.
The two again came close in 2012 when the title was at stake. After an early spin, Vettel took charge his final race championship charge to the next level in the changing conditions of Sao Paolo. The eventful title decider ended under Safety Car as Vettel finished the race P6, which was enough for him to outscore Fernando Alonso who had secured the second-place finish. Vettel tripped him just by three points to win his third title in front of his hero Michael Schumacher. He also happened to beat one of his main rivals in his last career race.
At Suzuka this year, Vettel and Alonso raced to the finish line side-by-side for P5 to produce one of the most iconic finishes and pictures in Formula 1. The gap read only 0.011s between the Alpine and Aston Martin.
Australian driver Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were teammates at Red Bull from 2010 to 2013. But the exchanges between them started in the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix when Vettel drove into the back of Webber under the safety car. The Aussie busted on to the rookie in the radio as he said: “It’s kids isn’t it… kids with not enough experience – you do a good job and then they f*** it all up.” However, Vettel apologized.
Being teammates in 2010, both were fighting for the championship. Heading into the Turkish Grand Prix, Webber had two victories in a row. But while they fought for the victory, they made contact when Webber edged Vettel down the circuit’s back straight and they both went over the track. The collision caused a Vettel DNF, a McLaren 1-2 and Hamilton’s first victory of the season. Webber managed to finish on the podium.
Further in the year, Vettel got front nose damage at Silverstone, which was replaced by Webber’s. Webber was leading the championship but it was the nail in coffin that Vettel was the favored driver. Winning the race, the Australian made a cheeky comment: “Not bad for a number two driver!”. The story was a lot different the next year when Vettel was 80 points ahead in the championship. Webber was ordered not to pass Vettel for the lead. But he ignored it and went for the win. He couldn’t pass him though.
The infamous “Multi 21” happened in the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Vettel was pushing Webber during the final laps. The team ordered “Multi 21” to Seb, stating “give Webber space, hold position”. The German ignored it and went on to win the fierce duel. It resulted in one of the most awkward podium exchanges of all time.
Vettel followed his idol Michael Schumacher and joined Ferrari in 2015. Following the new regulations, Mercedes were the undisputed leader of the grid. Lewis Hamilton was on the back of a 67 championship point victory over his teammate last year. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that Vettel and Ferrari posed any serious threat to Hamilton and Mercedes’ dominance. The championship battle went very close but tragedies at Silverstone, Singapore and Japan meant that despite leading the championship for more than half the year, he remained 46 points too short of the fifth championship. Lewis Hamilton took away the triumph.
The two had a clash when Hamilton apparently “brake-tested” Vettel behind Safety Car in Baku. He, in turn, bumped into the side of the brit. Vettel remembers it as an embarrassing moment for him but for Hamilton, it was the moment which led the rivalry to blossom into a sweet friendship. Further in Mexico, Hamilton suffered a rear right puncture after the opening lap contact with Vettel, who had a double impact in the same corner and was forced to change the front wing. Hamilton ended up P9, enough to secure him his fourth championship.
When the lights went out for the 2018 Formula 1 season, it was for the first time in its history that two four-times World Champions shared the grid. Vettel kicked off the season with two wins in Australia and Bahrain. Hamilton got the first win at Baku when Vettel locked up and Bottas had an unrepairable puncture in the dying laps after the safety car. The pivotal moment of the season was the German’s DNF in his home race. That changed the entire course of the season. The season ended the same way as in 2017. Reliability failures and racing incidents steered Vettel away from the championship, making Hamilton the third driver to have five Formula 1 title.
The duo have been locking wheels with each other since 2005. They made their Formula 1 debut in the same year, 2007. Ferrari wasn’t the same in 2019 and 2020. The team’s performance dipped and their encounters became less frequent. Hamilton reminisces that his rivalry with Sebastian Vettel was the best one he ever had.
Despite having fierce rivalries with them, Sebastian Vettel is seen with the highest regard and regarded with the utmost respect by each of them. Because this is what racing is all about. It’s a shame to all of the racing worlds that Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso didn’t get to recreate the iconic 2018 pic as the other two suffered from a mechanical failure. However, it was one grand farewell event in Abu Dhabi.