Sebastian Vettel says he will “treasure” his final day as a Ferrari race driver after an emotional Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The four-time world champion was given a guard of honour out of his garage on the way to the grid and presented with a trophy post-race to commemorate his 14 wins for the Scuderia.
And reflecting on the day, and his time at Ferrari, Vettel insisted he will only look back with happiness.
“There’s many reasons why, you can argue, why we did not succeed and finish the mission we set out to achieve but what you keep ultimately is the memories and the passion I shared with so many people along the way,” Vettel said.
“I have no regrets looking back. Certainly, there have been mistakes, there have been highs and lows.
“I’m not normally the most emotional guy, today is a different day, a day I will remember not for finishing 14th but for what it means in the big picture.
“It is a day I will treasure. It is a goodbye to many friends and in a way, I fell in love with, in the last years, so those I will miss.
“I’m sure I won’t lose those completely, we have a saying in German, you always see each other twice in life, I think time will tell.”
After the race, Vettel and teammate Charles Leclerc completed a helmet swap, with Seb calling the Monegasque the “most talented driver I came across in 15 years of F1” in a message.
And in a year where Ferrari has languished in the midfield, he voiced his wish to see Leclerc back fighting at the front of the grid.
“I’ve learned so much from this team, they have given me so much,” Vettel said.
“I’m very grateful for that, it’s beyond titles and victories, for sure that’s what we were after, in the end, we didn’t get it.”
“It doesn’t change anything, I wish this team well, I wish the guys well. Charles is a young, fresh hope of this team and I hope he gets the car he deserves in the next years.”
Vettel, though, handed his over with a personalised message for Leclerc and had some seriously high praise for him.
“To Charles, you are the most talented driver I came across in 15 years of F1,” Vettel wrote.
“Don’t waste it. But be sure whatever you do to be happy and smile. Thanks for everything!”
As for Leclerc, he also paid tribute to Vettel and voiced optimism for the future.
“It has been a difficult season for us and it’s a shame to end it like this,” he said after finishing 13th at the Abu Dhabi GP.
“All the same, we have made some progress over the past few races, and hopefully we can continue doing so over the winter to come back stronger next year.
“I want to thank Seb for everything he has given to the team. He is an amazing person and a fantastic driver. He pushed me to perform better and to improve.”
“It’s been great to have him on the other side of the garage for the past two years and I wish him all the best for the future.
“I am also happy that Carlos [Sainz] is joining the team next year. He is very quick, solid and consistent as a driver. It’s going to be a big challenge for me and I’m already looking forward to it.”