Nico Rosberg questions whether Sebastian Vettel ‘stopped at the right time’

Michelle Foster
Sebastian Vettel waves to the crowd after his final race. Abu Dhabi November 2022

2KFX7C9 VETTEL Sebastian (ger), Aston Martin F1 Team AMR22, portrait during the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2022, 22nd round of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship from November 18 to 20, 2022 on the Yas Marina Circuit, in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi - Photo Antonin Vincent / DPPI

With his Formula 1 career petering out from winning World titles, to just winning races and then to scoring a handful of points on occasions, Nico Rosberg has asked whether Sebastian Vettel “stopped at the right time”.

Vettel retired from Formula 1 at the end of the 2022 championship, the German wrapping up his career with one final point to his bring his final tally to 3098.

It was overall a very successful career, Vettel winning 53 grands prix, four World titles and claiming 57 pole positions.

As Rosberg puts it, it was “legendary”.

“To begin with, he leaves a legendary career,” the former F1 driver turned pundit explained to Sport1.

“Seb is one of the most successful drivers of all time and it is incredible what he has achieved in Formula 1. Those four titles in a row are of course insane.”

Vettel, though, was never able to add a fifth even though he moved across to Ferrari.

He joined the Scuderia in 2015, the year after he lost the World title to Lewis Hamilton but little did the German or Ferrari know 2014 would be the start of the Mercedes’ era.

While the Brackley squad raced to World title after World title, Vettel came closest in 2017 and 2018, two years in which pundits suggested the Ferrari was the better car.

Vettel, though, wasn’t able to capitalise as mistakes began to creep into his game most notably crashing out of the lead of the 2018 German Grand Prix.

That DNF cost him the lead in the Drivers’ standings, Vettel unable to recover and for the second year running having to settle for runner-up behind Hamilton.

He left Ferrari after the 2020 season, the driver informed by Mattia Binotto even before the first race of the championship that it would be his final season in red.

He swapped to Aston Martin where he spent two years before calling time on his career, Rosberg saying: “There he had phases in which he drove fantastic again, for example at the end of this season. But that was not always the case.”

The German added: “He has often spun by himself, which is totally inexplicable for a four-time World Champion.

“It was strange that those things happened race after race. Mentally that must have been difficult.”

That in fact was a concern for Rosberg when he made his decision to quit Formula 1 after winning the 2016 Drivers’ Championship.

“I absolutely wanted to avoid ending up in a negative spiral and sinking further and further,” he said. “That was the horror scenario for me.

“I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for Seb either. But whether he stopped at the right time, that’s a question only he can answer himself.”

He added: “In the last races it seemed like he was liberated and he drove like in his best period. He drove brilliant races and showed incredible things.

“In Austin he was in the lead and in Brazil he was fourth or fifth with a car that was extremely slow. That was very strong and because of that I believe he had a nice end to his career.”

Should Sebastian Vettel have stopped earlier?

From winning a race in his first full season in Formula 1 to the World title two years later, to a four-time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel enjoyed most of his success early in his career.

Then came disappointment at Ferrari, that partnership just not quite able to cross the line with runner-up results in 2017 and again in 2018.

From Ferrari came Aston Martin with one podium but otherwise very little to celebrate, prompting Vettel to decide it was time to retire.

It has been, some would say, backwards. Whereas most drivers work their way up to World titles, that’s how Vettel began with his results sliding backwards from that point onwards.

It does raise the question of whether he should have stopped earlier, perhaps walking away from losing his Ferrari ride.

But he was determined to push on, adamant he had more to give the sport.

And while he wasn’t able to do that in results, he did it in a much bigger way as he stood up for what he felt was right and promoted causes while also, and this is one where time will tell, setting into motion the ground work for future Aston Martin success.

Read more: Fred Vasseur warned of potential ‘short life’ as Ferrari team principal