Sebastian Vettel admitted his final F1 qualifying session had been “a bit emotional” before he went out and achieved a fine P9 start for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The German has only one more day remaining of a Formula 1 race career that began in 2007, but as far as qualifying is concerned he bowed out on a high at Yas Marina.
Precariously positioned on the Q1 leaderboard before his final run, Vettel weaved his Aston Martin through the traffic that was queuing up on out-laps to progress with a P6 placing.
The four-time former World Champion was eighth in Q2 to book only his fifth Q3 appearance of his final season, and a P9 starting position will give him high hopes of departing the sport by adding to the 3,097 points he has collected – including the first of those on his debut at the United States Grand Prix in June 2007.
“I’m still in the zone now but it was a bit emotional before qualy. I’m sure it will be a big day tomorrow,” Vettel told Sky F1 after the session.
“I think it was coming alive. I felt really comfortable at the end of Q1 and then Q2. We’d like to have had another set [of new tyres] in Q3, but all in all I think it was a good session for us and we could qualify the car in a decent spot.
“We have a task on our hands as well. We will try to beat the Alfa Romeos and score as many points to maybe get the sixth [place] in the Constructors’, so we’ll see what happens.”
Expanding upon the emotional side in an interview with media including PlanetF1, the 35-year-old, whose father Norbert was in the Aston Martin garage, said: “Before qualifying, I had some thoughts about the people that can’t be here because they are not with us anymore or they didn’t make it.
“Obviously there’s a lot of people that are here, which is very special. It’s been a long time and it’s a funny feeling, I have to admit. But as soon as you are in the car and you drive out, you are quite busy. I guess it’s a good sign.
“I enjoy it most when I’m present and I was, so I think it was a good session.”
Vettel had become angry over team radio when he kept finding a Red Bull preparing for a ‘hot’ lap when he was approaching the end of a timed effort, but fortunately it did not cost him any progress.
“Always on the laps before Q3 there was a Red Bull in the last corner,” said the 35-year-old.
“If you had staged it, you probably wouldn’t be able to. But the last lap was clear.”