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Thank you, Sebastian Vettel for being masterclass on F1 track and fighting for change off it

Sebastian Vettel has been one of the few reasons F1 has been worth watching in the past decade. Between masterclasses in racing on the track and fighting for change off it, Vettel has built enough of a name for himself to go down in the history books as one of the greatest of all time.

It is truly the end of an era — the four-time world champion announced his retirement from Formula 1 to focus on his family. Fans across the world have been wrecked by this announcement, given how Vettel has been a permanent fixture of the Formula 1 paddock for the past 16 years.

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Watching Sebastian Vettel race has been a joy to behold — always in sync with the cars he drives, rightfully the third most successful F1 driver of all time. His style is by no means unique, but he’s clever with what he does, when, and with who. In 2011 F1 World Championship, he was up against close rival Jenson Button — someone with a simple and technical driving style who’d been trailing him like a hawk. Guess who won? The blatant abuse of the diffuser and Adrian Newey’s, Red Bull’s CTO, smart engineering on the RB7 campaigned for Vettel’s second title more than he did. His second world title was won in succession. He’d become the youngest driver to have won two titles in a row. It was an extremely competitive season with multiple drivers vying for the title and his much-experienced teammate Mark Webber campaigning against him. But Vettel’s rawness and precision, along with the blown diffuser, won him the title.

When compared to the likes of Fernando Alonso — known for his aggressive ability to meld his style to the car — Vettel’s relatively safe style doesn’t fare too well. During their battles in 2012 and 2013, it was Vettel’s unmatched precision that won him his third and fourth titles.

Unfortunately, for Vettel, the 2015 move to Ferrari didn’t work. Vettel challenged Lewis Hamilton for the title in 2018 and 2019 but to no avail. His campaigns were marred by technical difficulties, silly mistakes, management changes, internal strife, and a young teammate. Murphy’s law, you see. Hamilton and Mercedes were able to capitalise on the strained relationship between Vettel and Ferrari, bringing home titles from 2014-2020. At Ferrari, for the first time, we saw his driving falter. In 2020, a disappointed Tifosi (the Ferrari fans) and Vettel were greeted with a tractor in the form of the SF1000- a car that couldn’t move beyond the midfield. Vettel’s strategic side was forced to take the front seat as he made the right pit calls, often doing better than Ferrari’s strategists. But that wasn’t enough. For some reason, Vettel was never enough for Ferrari or the Tifosi. They didn’t love him as much as he loved them.

After being unceremoniously dropped by the Scuderia, Vettel signed with Aston Martin in the hopes of reviving the team to fight for wins and podiums. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Vettel too was looking for a revival. The car was nothing close to what was expected, with Vettel still battling the lower and midfield. Somewhere in all of this, we lost the Vettel we’d all grown to love. In his fifth race with the team, he won Aston Martin their first podium at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and you could see shreds of the old Vettel again. Today, he shines in fleeting moments, the old Lion of Singapore roars on street circuits.

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As Verstappen and Hamilton took over our screens by the middle of the last decade, we saw less of Vettel. The champion may have realised his machinery wouldn’t allow doing too much on the track and shifted his sights off it. If Vettel wasn’t winning hearts on track, he was doing it off it. He constructed a bee hotel; wore rainbow shoes to stand in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ in Saudi Arabia; and hosted an all-women karting event in Saudi to promote gender equality and encourage more women in motorsport. Vettel went on BBC to say he was questioning his future in F1 because he was concerned about how environmentally taxing Formula 1 is. At the inaugural party of the Miami GP, he wore a shirt condemning it. He used his platform to have important conversations that many in the paddock were afraid to have.

Vettel’s retirement feels personal, it feels too close to home. His cheerful smiles, dad-of-the-paddock vibe, and cheeky attitude won him adoration across the world. He says in his retirement announcement, “The marks I left on track will stay until time and rain will wash them away.” Seb, nothing could wash away you or your achievements from the tracks and hearts you’ve conquered around the world. You have given to Formula 1 more than one could imagine.

Thank you, Seb. It has been a pleasure.

Views are personal.

Source: The Print

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