Hamilton ‘sad to lose an ally on the grid’ with Vettel retirement

2022 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says he will regret “losing an ally” on the grid when Sebastian Vettel retires at the end of this season.

The four-times world champion announced today he will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the 2022 season. Vettel made his grand prix race debut at the 2007 United States Grand Prix, midway through Hamilton’s rookie season with McLaren.

After competing against each other as rivals for the world championship in several seasons, the two champions retained a strong mutual respect that grew as the pair increasingly spoke out as advocates for equality and diversity within Formula 1 and wider society. Hamilton said Vettel is one of the few people in the paddock who he had formed a relationship with.

“I would just say naturally my first feeling is it’s sad to see that he’s stopping,” said Hamilton. “I’ve not had a lot of time to think about all the journey that we’ve gone through together.

“When I talk about the journey that I’ve felt I’ve experienced in this sport – often feeling that it’s been relatively lonely – I would say he’s one of the few people that’s made it not feel lonely.”

Vettel has been clear that one of the motivations for retiring from Formula 1 is his desire to advocate for the social and environmental causes he believes in. Hamilton says Vettel was always strong- minded from their first season together in the sport.

“He’s stood by me through a lot of things,” he said. “I always remember 2007 in the press conference in Magny Cours and him being very, very outspoken in the drivers briefing. I knew then that he was always going to be a powerful figure in the sport.

“But then seeing his success and then seeing that he puts others before himself and he’s been so brave and speaking out and standing up for what he believes in.

“We talk about ‘legends’ in our sport – I don’t really love that name or that title, to be honest. I think he’s one of the greatest people that we’ve seen in this sport and we need more like him. I’m sad because I would have lost an ally inside the actual sport on the grid, but knowing that outside he’ll be doing great things and I hope that we will always remain friends and I hope that there’ll be other things that we get to do together outside.”

With both champions the two most politically active and outspoken drivers on the grid, Hamilton is hopeful that other drivers will continue to follow Vettel’s example in using their status as F1 drivers to speak out in support of progressive values.

“Ultimately I think that, in general, we often stand on the shoulders of greats from the past – whether it’s in this sport or other sports,” Hamilton explained.

“I really hope that he inspires the next generation – whether it’s this one or the younger generation that will be coming through – to be more confident and utilising their platform and realising it’s not just about them and their car, it’s about something far, far bigger than being here. I really hope we see more people like him.”

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2022 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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7 comments on “Hamilton ‘sad to lose an ally on the grid’ with Vettel retirement”

  1. Genuinely teary eyed at this, plus the warm words of Alonso.

    Three greats, that even the most WUM artists on here cannot disagree with.

    Fact is, I never liked Vettel when he was in the RB. I saw a driver who had it handed on a plate (but admitted he obviously was a talent, given his great performance before joining – note to WUM’s you can not be keen on a driver and still realise they are special)

    Then he joined Ferrari and ironically became more grown up, which coincided with worsening performances.

    Like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – it’s very hard to imagine F1 without these three.

    But of course it will survive. Sports moves on. Ruthlessly.

    1. Agreed. He annoyed the crap out of me with RBR. It was the finger mostly. Then he moved to Ferrari and his first interview with the team talked about how he saw no reason to use social media and I thought “I like the guy now.” lol

    2. He was a brat in Ferrari too. Nobody liked Vettel until Ham destroyed him. Then suddenly he became a nicest guy ever in the media . Gimme a break. In a way he became Ham’s sissy boy. Useless driver taking about politics. I’ve never seen anything like it. Lewis gave him a K.O. And he was never the same after it.

  2. It’s sad to see him go. Makes me feel old. On the upside though, it makes a bit more room for the one or two actually exciting talents out there.

    1. Welcome to the Oldtimers club ;) I had that too when Nigel and Alan stopped racing then Michel came and went then Kimi and Mika and went then Alonso, Lewis and Seb came Alonso stopped (and came back) then Seb stops…

      Room for a talent i don’t think so it will be a pay driver OR a old one. But maybe it triggers movement of drivers making room in their team and so a talented driver can join.

  3. Its a good point made by Hamilton. He and Vettel are very much the free spirits using their platform to promote discussion and change.

    In recent years they have both been the first to speak out on environment and world issues, where others have remained silent, or at least waited on their lead. I suspect they made have talked privately on what they could do. It will be a sad day for F1 and the sporting world generally when vettel retires.

  4. F1 primarily being a tech driven sport, they both profited from a period in F1 that saw unparalleled car dominance streaks. They owe F1 everything. Hopefully the future will be different and we will see less of it.

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