Ex-Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel has revealed the thrill of competition, particularly during the final moment of qualifying, is the thing he misses most about the sport.
Vettel elected to retire from F1 at the end of 2022 after a spell with Aston Martin, bringing the curtain down on a career that had included four Drivers’ titles and 53 race wins.
Since he departed, Vettel has competed in the Race of Champions in January before making an appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this summer.
The German has quashed rumours that he could be in line to become a part of the all-electric Formula E category with the ABT Cupra team, admitting he remains content with his decision to exit motorsport.
“The first few months passed quickly and it was nice to be able to enjoy the freedom to organise my time,” he told Red Bull publication The Red Bulletin.
“Many factors went into my decision to resign. I didn’t stop because I didn’t like the sport anymore, was too slow, or really wanted to do something else. Resignations are very individual.
“For me, time was one of the determining factors: the many races; knowing how much effort it takes to do the job properly, in my opinion.
“At the same time, I have small children at home. That time will not come again.”
Expanding on what he misses most about F1, Vettel reflected: “I enjoyed the driving, the competition, right up to the end.
“When you only have one shot left in qualifying and it has to hit the mark. racing duels. These are the moments I miss the most.”
However, the ex-Red Bull and Ferrari driver believes it was the right time to step away, suggesting that he had “outgrown” the direction F1 was heading in.
“I no longer wanted to make certain compromises,” he disclosed.
“Plus: My children have a right to me being there for them more. I must have outgrown a bit of a world that I used to think was great. Things that I once saw as pure white had been given a certain tint.”
Over recent years, Vettel has become a strong advocate for protecting the environment, with the German electing to conduct several demo runs in classic cars using synthetic fuels to raise awareness.
Vettel believes those still involved in F1 should look beyond the sport to see the risks that are posed to the entire world.
“Anyone who does not close their eyes perceives social developments,” he declared.
“Although F1 has taken up a large part of my life, it is not central to the people of the world. If you think outside the box, you can see the signs.”
Without the attraction of a racing schedule to commit to for the first time in his adulthood, the 36-year-old concedes he is still “searching” to fill the void he has left behind.
“I was very well prepared when I made this decision. But one unpredictable factor remains. I like doing sports outside. As of today, there is nothing that pushes me to the limit like F1. That’s what I miss the most.
“I have to put the brakes on myself here, because that’s exactly what I wanted to get to know about myself: What happens when I’m not in competition mode? At some point, this adrenaline rush of a career at the top of the world will come to an end, whether freely chosen or forced – for example due to injuries.
“Then it’s about moving on, taking the thrill and the tension with you to the next section. I’m not saying it’s easy or saying I’ve done it. I’m searching, and this process itself is exciting.”
Vettel’s decision to leave Aston Martin came after two tough seasons that were predominantly spent battling away at the rear of the midfield in below-par machinery.
However, the Silverstone outfit has taken a considerable leap forward this year, enabling Fernando Alonso, who replaced Vettel, to score six podiums in the first eight races to sit third in the Drivers’ standings.
Nevertheless, Vettel says that he holds no grudge over Aston Martin’s resurgence in 2023, underlining that he is pleased for the entire team and old adversary Alonso.
“The first reaction of many people was: The fact that the Aston Martin is so fast this season must frustrate you?” he acknowledged.
“OK, maybe it would be easier if the car was total garbage, in the sense of: I’m not missing anything anyway. No, I’m primarily happy for the team.
“I’m happy for Fernando Alonso. For many years he had no car in which he could show his driving skills. Now he can and is up there. Red Bull Racing dominates, and I still have a lot of friends and acquaintances there. I’m really happy when they win.”