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#ThankYouSeb: A Tribute to One of F1’s Greatest and Nicest

By: Ritangshu Bhattacharya

News18 Sports

Last Updated: July 29, 2022, 11:54 IST

New Delhi, India

Sebastian Vettel (Reuters Photo)

Sebastian Vettel (Reuters Photo)

Fans are already clamouring for Vettel's return to F1 in an administrative role, but whether he remains in the paddock, or fades away into anonymity, Sebastian Vettel has undoubtedly sealed his place in the pantheon of the greatest of F1 greats, both on and off track

It was 2013, on a hot and dusty October afternoon. Over 60,000 fans cheered on lustily as a screaming V8-engined racecar with Red Bull emblazoned on the sides turned the last corner of the last of the 60 laps and screamed down the finish line to win the Indian GP for the 3rd consecutive time.

As his team whooped in joy and his rivals applauded in grudging admiration, the driver brought Car #1 to a screeching halt, and then made 3 ‘doughnuts’ – 360-degree spins on the spot – as the crowd frenzy reached a crescendo.

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Amidst the tyre smoke already adding to the typical Delhi haze, out jumped a diminutive German. He sank to his knees, bowed down before his beast, ran to the crowd, scaled the fence, and tossed his gloves to his adoring fans.

History was made. Sebastian Vettel was champion of the world – for the fourth time.

Nobody in their right minds at that time would have thought this to be as good as it would ever get for the wunderkind from Heppenheim in Germany; the one seemingly destined to take down the records of his own idol and arguably F1’s G.O.A.T – Michael Schumacher. Yet F1 can be a cruelly fickle sport and the changing regulations coming in next year heralded the ascendance of a new king of the tracks by the name of Lewis Hamilton.

In the years of Mercedes dominance that followed, it is often easy to forget and undermine the impact prime Sebastian Vettel had on the sport. But 9 years removed from his dizzying Indian GP peak, Vettel still remains the biggest draw in F1, as evidenced by how his unique retirement announcement that broke the Internet for the second time on Thursday (the first, when he joined Instagram earlier that day, after years of swearing to stay off social media and keep his private life protected).

Vettel’s career can be split into two perfectly symmetrical eras. There were his formative couple of years in Torro Rosso, where we first glimpsed Vettel’s explosive talent. His maiden victory, dragging a backmarker car to a sensational victory in a rain-soaked Monza in 2008 remains possibly the best ever. This was followed by the 6 dream years in the Red Bull team, where his accomplishments remain unrivalled to this day – youngest world champion, most wins in a season (13), most consecutive wins (9), most poles in a season (15), and above all 4 World Championships.

But then came the Ferrari years. Having already achieved all that he could in Red Bull, Vettel dreamt of emulating his boyhood hero Michael Schumacher by bringing glory back to the Scuderia. He came very close in 2017 and 2018 – the only driver to ever truly challenge Hamilton in that era – but mistakes and errant team strategies resulted in the dream remaining a dream.

Eclipsed by the emerging talent of Charles Leclerc in the two years that followed, Vettel elected to see out his career in Aston Martin – the team once known as Force India. There were indisputable flashes of brilliance, but a struggling team and a poor car sent home the message that Seb was unlikely to ever scale those remarkable heights again.

And so he has called quits. But Sebastian leaves this sport far more than just statistically among the top 4 drivers of all time. While the podium champagne dwindled in recent years, the plaudits kept flowing in as Sebastian became a true ambassador of the sport as well as the need for change in this world.

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Together with his arch rival-turned-friend Hamilton, Vettel campaigned for more inclusivity in the sport, and daringly wore Pride gear and helmets in countries with chequered human rights records such as the Middle East.

The final couple of years saw Vettel champion the cause of the environment like no other driver ever has – whether it be staying back after the races to clean up litter in the stands, or pushing F1 to adopt more sustainable fuels to reduce its carbon footprint.

As director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, Vettel has been instrumental in pushing for drivers’ safety to a point where his fans are now clamouring for his return to the sport in an administrative role post his retirement.

But whether he remains in the paddock, or fades away into anonymity, Sebastian Vettel has undoubtedly sealed his place in the pantheon of the greatest of F1 greats, both on and off track.

As one of those 60,000 thousand screaming fans in the stands for that iconic 2013 Indian Grand Prix celebration, I can only say – Danke Seb, for the memories and all the very best for your next race in life.

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first published:July 29, 2022, 03:20 IST
last updated:July 29, 2022, 11:54 IST