Four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel announced ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix that he will retire at the end of the 2022 season, putting an end to his 15 years on the grid.
Along with Lewis Hamilton, the German has been one of the leading voices on non-F1 issues in recent years, with a particular focus on the climate crisis and environmental issues facing the world today, as well as issues regarding the rights of the LGBTQ+ collective and activism against racism.
Hamilton hopes that Vettel’s efforts to raise his voice in recent years will help inspire the next generation of drivers to use the public platform they will gain by becoming F1 drivers in a similar way.
“Ultimately, I think we generally lean on what the greats of the past have done, whether it’s in this sport or others,” the Briton said. “I really hope it inspires the next generation, whether it’s this one or the next one to come, to be more confident in using their platform, realizing it’s not just about them and their car.”
“It’s about something much, much bigger than being here. Hopefully we’ll see more people like him, but I can’t guarantee it because I think it’s rare,” Hamilton continued.
Vettel has been director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) since 2010, and has been a key figure in speaking out about F1’s safety regulations on behalf of drivers.
Several of his colleagues have expressed their wish that he continue in the position, even after finishing his career as a pilot.
Hamilton said he was not sure what Vettel’s plans were for his life after leaving F1 behind, but was confident the German “is going to be great, if he applies himself as he has here, with the courage and the sheer determination he’s had.
After Vettel’s withdrawal, the only drivers who will remain on the grid and who have already been on it for a decade will be Hamilton, Sergio Pérez, Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso.
Despite the grid getting younger, the Englishman dismissed the suggestion that F1 would be worse off when the old guard and experienced world champions such as himself and Alonso no longer race.
“We hope that our work takes her to a better place,” Hamilton said. “That’s the work that I’ve tried to do, what Seb [Vettel] has been trying to do here, to really spark the conversations, to leave this place a better sport than it was when we found it. “.
“I think Seb has played a very important role in this regard, and there is still a lot of work to do,” he added. “I don’t know if Seb is going to do more work, stay in the background with the series or not. I doubt he’ll come back to commentate, but you can never say you’ll never do something.”
“But yeah, I hope he’s in a better place. It would have been a terrible waste of time if he wasn’t,” concluded the seven-time champion.