Sebastian Vettel should have made a retirement U-turn after his final burst of form at the end of 2022, according to Aston Martin principal Mike Krack.
The four-time World Champion brought his iconic career to a close last year after two disappointing seasons on Lawrence Stroll’s team, finishing back-to-back campaigns 12th in the Drivers’ Championship.
Vettel’s 10 Q1 exits characterised another frustrating year but as Aston found an extra slice of performance late in 2022, the German seemed to be enjoying himself again.
Four point-scoring finishes in the final six races peaked with a Q3 appearance and sixth at his beloved Suzuka. Vettel’s gutsy drive to eighth at the US GP concluded with a brilliant overtake on Kevin Magnussen after a last lap duel, earning the second of three Driver of the Day awards.
With Vettel revitalised and driving like a younger version of himself, it was hard for fans to let go. Krack shares that sentiment, believing the 35-year-old still has more to give in F1.
Asked if Vettel was in top form during his farewell season, Krack told Motorsport Magazin: “I think so, he tasted blood.
“When things went up in Singapore and Suzuka, you could see his joy. When you heard him on the radio, you immediately knew he was there.
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“He was sharp, he was really in the flow. You could tell in the last races that a car that gives him more feedback, more performance, motivates him even more.
“I have to say: hats off! He had a difficult time, often dropped out in Q1, but he never let his head down and always continued to support the team and Lance. That was very exemplary.
“I’m glad he’s where he is – but it’s a shame he decided to quit. I hope he regrets it.”
Vettel has since appeared at the Race of Champions alongside Mick Schumacher but has yet to announce more racing plans since leaving the paddock behind. He has flirted with the idea of rallying, though.
Meanwhile, Vettel has been replaced by another World Champion and generational icon, Fernando Alonso. The 2005 and ’06 title winner is six years Vettel’s senior but moves across from Alpine this year, searching for his first victory since 2013.
Perhaps Vettel arrived at Aston Martin a little early, with the team continuing its rapid expansion ahead of 2023 and poaching some talented staff from rival teams. With a new factory and wind tunnel under construction, Aston could become a force in the coming years.
Vettel retirement eased the pain
Although Sebastian Vettel’s retirement was hard to take, the increasingly familiar sight of the four-time Champion toiling at the wrong end of the midfield was a sporting tragedy in itself.
Aggressive, ruthless and searingly fast, the Vettel F1 knew in Red Bull overalls was a far cry from his Ferrari and Aston Martin evolutions. The German seemed demoralised by his final season with the Scuderia, for which Maranello produced arguably the worst edition of their iconic red machines.
One of Formula 1’s great winners, Vettel settling for Q1 exits wasn’t right. It’s unlikely he’ll regret retirement, with the 35-year-old able to enjoy family time and explore his other passions – including some racing action in other series’, hopefully.
Some regret might start to creep in at the sight of Alonso and Lance Stroll vaulting into the mix for Grand Prix victories in 2023, though. Don’t rule out a comeback yet, especially if an opportunity for Vettel to race at Suzuka arises.