“We laughed so much”: Hamilton brings F1 field together for Vettel’s farewell dinner

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers set the intensity of competition aside on Thursday evening in Abu Dhabi as the entire 20-strong field gathered for a farewell dinner in honour of retiring four-times champion Sebastian Vettel.

The meal, images of which swiftly appeared across their social media accounts, was the first time F1’s drivers had got together in this way since the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix. It came about at the instigation of Vettel’s former championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

“I thought it was really important, so that’s why I asked in Mexico whether they would be open to all doing a dinner to give Seb a farewell,” he explained to media including RaceFans. “We haven’t had a dinner [together] since years ago in China.”

Vettel took the floor at one point to give a speech. “It was the best evening,” said Hamilton. “We were all laughing so much, great stories, Seb is a great leader as well. He made a great speech, just trying to hand down some of his experiences that he’s had over these years particularly to the younger guys for their future.”

While images of the F1 racing class of 2022 seated at a dinner table were inevitably scrutinised by fans for any signs of loyalties or hostilities, Alexander Albon insisted no-one had set out to avoid sitting next to a particular rival. “Whoever arrives just sits,” he said, “there’s no kind of musical chairs going on.”

He turned up at the same time as Williams team mate Nicholas Latifi who, like Vettel, is likely making his final grand prix start this weekend. “Nicky and I were first to arrive,” he said. “We were five minutes late and we were the first by 20 minutes, so we got to sit next to each other.”

“Everyone seems to be good friends,” Albon reckons. “There’s not really any big rivalries, apart from a couple.

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“But generally speaking, we all get along really well. I think we see each other more than ever now, just with the amount of races that we’re doing, all the travelling we’re doing, where we tend to be either sharing planes or whatever.

F1 drivers’ dinner ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
“So we get to spend a lot of time with each other. We see each other more than our own families, as I’m sure you [media] guys see each other more than yours. So there’s a good spirit with the whole grid.”

Two years of Covid restrictions made such a social event impossible until recently. Many drivers on the grid had never previously met up with all their rivals at once for a social event and had a chance to speak to drivers they seldom otherwise encounter.

“It was my first time doing such a thing, I think it’s cool,” said Lando Norris. “You kind of grow up in the world of motorsport, you’re not forced to not like each other, but you don’t grow up to like each other. You’re always seeing them as enemies more than anything.

“So for the first time, it’s actually quite a different feeling sitting there actually talking to everyone completely away from a race track and away from racing. So it’s nice. I spoke to some people I’ve almost never spoken to before.”

The grid met up at Hakkasan restaurant in Abu Dhabi. They were not – as was widely reported elsewhere – the party which racked up a 615,000 Dirham (£140,000) bill that night in Abu Dhabi’s branch of Nusr-Et, the staggeringly expensive steakhouse chain owned by Instagram influencer Salt Bae.

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“A couple left early,” while others stayed late, returning to base in the early hours of the following morning, said Daniel Ricciardo, another driver heading into his final race for the foreseeable future. “Obviously we had a good excuse to do it for Seb as a bit of a farewell for him, but you kind of just forget when we all get in a room away from the competition of this environment it’s just quite nice.

“We all have obviously a lot in common, probably more than we think actually. So it was just cool to enjoy each other’s company and not really talk racing and not talk competition. I felt like we all were just learning a bit more about each other away from the track, so that was nice.”

Fernando Alonso, the grid’s most experienced driver, has attended several get-togethers over a career spanning 21 years. Having once gone up against the likes of Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, he now competes against a new generation of rivals.

“It was Jos Verstappen there when I started and now it’s Max,” the Alpine driver observed.

“It’s just different. It was more respect [for the older generation] before, it was less of this younger generation or social media or whatever. Before it was like very strong characters in Formula 1, it was DC, it was Mika, it was Michael. It was very established which one was who.

“Now it’s a little bit more friendly in a different way. I don’t say fake, but all young, all friendly. Before it was different.

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“But I like it more now, I think it is more fun. Everyone is taking pictures, that’s the only thing you need to be careful of because you cannot have a bad moment because it will be all around the world, someone will be filming. But apart from that, I think it was good fun.”

Grand Prix Drivers Association
Hamilton’s team mate George Russell admitted the evening proved “a lot more fun than we probably would have expected. We’ve sort of said we need it more often.”

“There’s only 20 [F1] drivers in the world, there’s only one another that can understand what we all sort of go through,” he explained. “And in a way that’s something quite special that we all share in common and in a way that all brings you a little bit closer. But when the helmet’s on, the helmet’s on.”

The success of the event may make it a regular occurrence, said Hamilton. “Afterwards we were like ‘let’s do it all the time’. Maybe we’ll make this an annual thing here, maybe we’ll have another one in the year perhaps.”

He also sees the value of solidifying the connections between the racers through the Grand Prix Drivers Association, which represents their interests within the championship.

“There’s also a lot that we can do as the GPDA, as a united group,” said Hamilton. “We have, I think, a responsibility, we’ve got a great platform each and every one of us collectively and it’s encouraging.

“Collectively that there’s lots of things that Formula 1 needs to really push forward on action-wise. It says we’re doing a lot of things, sustainability and those things, but really, really making sure we’re pushing through and doing the absolute best and maybe the GPDA can have a role in that.”

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2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on ““We laughed so much”: Hamilton brings F1 field together for Vettel’s farewell dinner”

  1. I wish I was at that dinner.

    1. … and paid the bill.

  2. And this is again one of those small things why I always liked Hamilton. He is also genuinely excited when someone gets their first podium, always been like that.
    The made-for-tv storylines really ruined F1 for me, especially the ones paid for by Ziggo NL.

    1. I don’t think Hamilton was always like that. But yeah I agree. It was a nice gesture.

    2. I agree! Hope Lewis can get his win today!

  3. At first I was like… who’s that dude on the left, front row… someone’s dad? As I counted, I’m like where’s Bot ah holy pornstache!

  4. That sums up the dynamic nicely. Let no one be fooled by Hamilton’s apparent “regard” for others. He did it because he petsonally needed to be perceived in a positive light, he has an almost ingrained need for people to like him. That he was doing the Donkey work and a true icon was benefitting is a measure of his lowly place in the F1 ‘humanity’ hierarchy.

  5. I truly enjoy to see all drivers together sharing a good lough! It speaks volumes to younger generations growing up playing video games destroying/killing anyone representing the opposite side. I’m glad they’re conveying a message of togetherness, not rivalry which spills over from the race track to every pore of their lives. Sadly, perception of many revealed to often in their comments expose a lots of hate and lack of respect for these lads. They forget couple of facts about F1 drivers, just to number a few: Anyone capable of racing in a F1 car – better say a F1 beast – is a very very special individual, not to mention all personal sacrifices they made to become F1 drivers. Among these fine man there are champions who excel among this very small group of special individuals and they deserve respect regardless of whom we support. I wish them all well, but I also wish all the best to all followers of this sport to enjoy a good spirit of the photo above. Thank you Seb, you’ll be missed but always remembered as one of the best.

    1. My wish today is 1 Halmiton, 2 Vetell and 3 Ricardo on podium..
      That will compensate all the bad race weekend results for me this year.

  6. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    20th November 2022, 11:30

    I wonder if this evening changed perceptions of other drivers for any of them. I imagine being in F1 is very much living in a bubble, assuming things about other drivers rather than knowing.
    I’m sure they’ll all be leaving each other two car widths come this afternoon…..maybe.

  7. This is great to see, camaraderie among the drivers can only be positive all round. Also a worthwhile cause (today’s Seb Vettel). Alonso’s comparison with drivers in the past seems basically to be saying that before it was hierarchy between the drivers that mattered, everyone knowing their place; interesting that he voiced the bit about ‘fake.’ Obviously that’s how he’s tempted to read it even if he says the opposite (why else would it pop into his head).

  8. I imagine there’s a lot less tension this year as the championship was decided so long ago. If it was the same situation as last year I don’t think you’d get Hamilton and Verstappen having a meal together before the race…

  9. Good to see them get together, nice move from Lewis to revive this tradition for Seb’s final race. 👍

  10. Strange picture with the ‘birthday boy’ somewhere in the back.

  11. Genuinely pleased to see them all smiling having dinner together. Not long ago, everyone used to say that F1 drivers weren’t friends anymore, posting pictures of Jackie Stewart and Cevert having holidays together, or that generation of british drivers attending a young Damon Hill baptism. For a long time it felt that way, that they had nothing in common with each other but now it seems they is a big group of friendly folks getting along very well outside the track and actually sharing some time together.

  12. Lovely stuff

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