Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion, said there was more to life than “racing in circles” as he ended his Formula One career with a points-scoring finish in Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 35-year-old German raced his Aston Martin from ninth place on the grid, engaging in a wheel-to-wheel battle with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon over several laps.
But, after his hopes of a higher score were dashed by a one-stop strategy, he could only manage the final point on offer for tenth place.
“I enjoyed the race,” said Vettel who capped a glittering career of 53 wins and four world titles with celebratory tyre-smoking donuts on the start-finish straight.
“I think it was a bit of a different warm up today to get into the race but once the lights go off it’s full on race mode.”
Vettel’s impending retirement had triggered an outpouring of affection for the former Red Bull and Ferrari driver.
The tributes have flooded in, with the German’s stand on social issues and the environment and his conduct with rivals, peers, colleagues and fans endearing him to many.
His family, including father Norbert and three children, usually kept away from the public glare of the F1 paddock, were in attendance for his final bow.
Having won his last title in 2013 and last race in 2019, Vettel singed off from the sport a more popular driver than in his heyday.
“I don’t have that much more to say, I feel a bit empty to be honest,” said Vettel.
“So many flags, so many smiling faces, which has been very, very special, very nice and I’m sure I’m going to miss more than I understand right now.”
Vettel called on the next generation of drivers to pick up where he left off.
“There’s far bigger and far more important things than racing in circles,” he said.
“But obviously it’s what we love and through that if we can transfer some of the really important values, that’s big.
“So I hope to pass on a little bit to the other drivers to carry on some of the good work.”