This is it. Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season.
The German, who made his debut with BMW Sauber in the 2007 United States Grand Prix, revealed the news via his newly created Instagram account – his first foray into social media.
Vettel won all four of his championships with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013 and is third on the all-time list of Grand Prix winners with 53 victories.
A six-year stint with Ferrari failed to yield a much-coveted fifth title and he has scored just one podium during one-and-a-half years with Aston Martin, where his contract expires at the end of 2022.
Ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Vettel – who races alongside Lance Stroll – announced this will be his 15th and final full season in Formula 1.
“I have had the privilege of working with many fantastic people in Formula 1 over the past 15 years – there are far too many to mention and thank,” said Vettel. “Over the past two years I have been an Aston Martin driver – and although our results have not been as good as we had hoped, it is very clear to me that everything is being put together that a team needs to race at the very highest level for years to come.
“I have really enjoyed working with such a great bunch of people. Everyone – Lawrence [Stroll], Lance [Stroll], Martin [Whitmarsh], Mike [Krack], the senior managers, the engineers, the mechanics and the rest of the team – is ambitious, capable, expert, committed and friendly, and I wish them all well.
“I hope that the work I did last year and am continuing to do this year will be helpful in the development of a team that will win in the future, and I will work as hard as I can between now and the end of the year with that goal in mind, giving as always my best in the last 10 races.
“The decision to retire has been a difficult one for me to take, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about it; at the end of the year I want to take some more time to reflect on what I will focus on next; it is very clear to me that, being a father, I want to spend more time with my family.
“But today is not about saying goodbye. Rather, it is about saying thank you – to everyone – not least to the fans, without whose passionate support Formula 1 could not exist.”
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Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll said: “I want to thank Sebastian from the bottom of my heart for the great work that he has done for Aston Martin over the past year and a half. We made it clear to him that we wanted him to continue with us next year, but in the end he has done what he feels is right for himself and his family, and of course we respect that.
“He has driven some fantastic races for us, and, behind the scenes, his experience and expertise with our engineers have been extremely valuable. He is one of the all-time greats of Formula 1, and it has been a privilege to have been able to work with him.
“He will continue to race for us up to and including the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which will be his 300th Grand Prix entry. We will give him a fabulous send-off.”
Team Principal Mike Krack added: “Sebastian is a superb driver – fast, intelligent and strategic – and of course we are going to miss those qualities. However, we have all learned from him, and the knowledge that we have gained from working with him will continue to benefit our team long after his departure.
“Aston Martin is a great project, with unlimited potential, and the groundwork that Sebastian has done last year, and is still doing this year, is crucial. When we become fully competitive – and we will – one of the architects of that future success will be Sebastian, and we will always be grateful to him for that.”