Christian Horner has paid tribute to Sebastian Vettel following the German’s retirement from F1, describing him as a “brilliant character” off the track and “even more brilliant” on it.
Vettel called time on his F1 career at the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after two challenging seasons with Aston Martin, having earlier claimed four world titles, 53 race victories and 57 pole positions.
Horner was Vettel’s team boss at Red Bull for all of those championship wins and shared some memories from their time working together as the 35-year-old moves on to his next chapter away from an F1 cockpit.
“He’s just a consummate professional. He came to us as a young kid with a brace and a funny haircut, and he just grew in that time as a Red Bull junior,” said Horner, having seen Vettel make his F1 debut with BMW Sauber before moves to Toro Rosso and then the senior Red Bull team.
“He’s got such an endearing personality; he’d turn up with chocolates for the receptionist and the secretaries and endeared himself to everybody. He had the ability to mimic and impersonate so many different accents, from cockney slang to Nigel Mansell… his Jean Todt was legendary.
“[He’s] just a brilliant, brilliant character, and an even more brilliant driver. I mean, what we achieved together, the four consecutive World Championships, the way that he went into the final race [in Abu Dhabi] in 2010, and in Brazil in 2012… phenomenal, phenomenal memories.
“Obviously, the last couple of years [with Aston Martin] have been more challenging for him, but it shouldn’t diminish from anything that he’s done and achieved as one of the greatest drivers ever in Formula 1.”
As Horner alluded to, Vettel’s 2010 and 2012 title wins involved dramatic final-round deciders as he came from behind to grab the ’10 championship at Yas Marina and recovered from an early-race incident at Interlagos in ’12 to secure the crown.
Sebastian Vettel’s F1 career in numbers
|Grand Prix starts:||299|
|World titles:||4 (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013)|
Either side of those titles were dominant displays in 2011 and 2013, with the latter season including a then-record 13 wins and an incredible nine in a row to see out the campaign – giving him the biggest championship victory margin in F1 history (155 points).
Asked what he feels was Vettel’s best season, Horner added: “Well, he just got better and better. I mean, 2010, it went down to the wire; 2011, he was truly dominant; 2012, he never gave up and came right – he won four critical races in 2012. He’d won one race before we left Europe that year and then delivered incredibly after we left Europe.
“Then, in 2013, he was just on a different level. Those nine consecutive victories were insane, and the level of intensity that he had to deliver that was outstanding.”