Lewis Hamilton says no other driver in Formula 1 has used their platform as influentially as he and the retiring Sebastian Vettel have.
Both Hamilton and Vettel came into Formula 1 during the same year, Hamilton making his debut with McLaren in 2007, while Vettel made first appearance during that same season with BMW Sauber.
Over the years the pair went on to become great rivals on the track, most notably their title duels in 2017 and 2018, but beyond that Hamilton and Vettel have built up a very strong relationship off the track.
With 11 World Championships between them, Hamilton and Vettel have certainly left their mark on the track, but in a broader context, their activism over recent years has set them apart from the pack.
Hamilton has generally focused on underrepresentation in motorsport, while Vettel has campaigned on social and environmental issues.
And Hamilton believes that this gives himself and Vettel their own unique place in Formula 1, as Vettel prepares to call time on his career after the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
At an event in Sao Paulo organised by Petronas, Hamilton told media, including Motorsport.com: “It’s been an unexpected relationship, one of friendship.
“It’s very hard when you’re so competitive and pursuing something you’re passionate about, that you spend your life chasing, racing and contesting championships. But we’ve had amazing races together, championship battles over the years.
“And it’s been really nice to see, from the outside, how someone grows up and makes their way. Of all the drivers I’ve raced with, Seb was the first one to support me and kneel with me. He was the first, as far as I know, to go out of his way for the things that matter to him.
“I think we’ve had our own paths in that sense, but supporting each other all this time. I don’t think I’ve seen any other driver in the history of the sport who has done what he and I are doing in terms of using our platform, talking and taking risks.
“So I really see him as an ally, even though we are still competitors today. And I’m sure that, even when we’re old, we’ll still be very competitive with each other.”
Retiring at the age of 35, that is not exactly old for a Formula 1 driver these days, Vettel deciding after two seasons at Aston Martin that it is time for him to walk away from competing in Formula 1.
Hamilton indeed feels that Vettel still has something to offer, but wishes him well for the next stage of his life and looks forward to continuing their relationship.
“It will be sad to see him go, because I think there is still a lot of potential in him, although I know he will do amazing things out there and we will always be in touch,” said Hamilton.
“I was lucky enough to meet his family and we will stay in touch, understanding our goals and seeing how one can help the other.”
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel broke the mould
Hamilton and Vettel have made an effort to buck the normal trend when it comes to F1 drivers, knowing the power that their voices have, built up over their extensive and wildly successful Formula 1 careers.
Hamilton then is right when he says that he and Vettel are the first of their kind in this regard, both drivers acting, not just talking on the issues that matter to them.
The Hamilton Commission and Mission 44 are examples of Hamilton’s work, while Hamilton’s Mercedes team also launched their ‘Accelerate 25’ diversity and inclusivity initiative.
As for Vettel, alongside his choices of shirt on the grid and public comments relating to certain countries he visits, the latter not always going down well, Vettel also has set up various environmental and social-related activities in recent years.
So, with Vettel now readying to depart Formula 1, at a time where the series is making strides to reduce its carbon footprint, Hamilton may find himself needing to fill the void which Vettel’s exit leaves.