Sebastian Vettel hits the 3500 laps led mark, consoles team as ‘sh*t happens’

Michelle Foster
Sebastian Vettel waves to the crowd. Austria July 2022.

Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel salutes the crowd on the drivers' parade. Austria July 2022.

Briefly leading Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel hit a milestone for laps led in Formula 1 as the four-time World Champion reached 3500.

Vettel showed no signs of being a driver counting down the races to retirement as he raced old foe Lewis Hamilton for the lead at the Circuit of the Americas.

The Aston Martin driver was leading the United States Grand Prix on Lap 39 – the first time this season he’s been up in P1.

He was then challenged for the lead by Hamilton, the Briton needing two attempts to make it stick. Unable to fight back a third time, Vettel pitted.

“It was good to lead the race for a while because it has been a while since I was in that position,” said the 35-year-old.

Hamilton leads the all-time record for most laps led on 5432, with Michael Schumacher second on 5111. Vettel is third, moving his total up to 3501.

He wasn’t able to convert that into a podium finish as disaster struck when Aston Martin fluffed his second pit stop, the driver stationary for 16.8 seconds as his mechanics struggled with his front left tyre.

Falling to P13, he put in a recovery drive worthy of another ‘Driver of the Day’ award.

“In the end, it was a good recovery drive to score six points,” he said. “I really enjoyed the last few laps, especially the final-lap fight with Kevin [Magnussen].

“When I crossed the finish line, the adrenaline was really pumping.

“Without the slow stop, I think we had sixth place easily in the bag so we should focus on the positives of our competitive car pace.”

Racing Magnussen for position on the final lap of the Grand Prix, the two running side-by-side a few times, Vettel made the pass stick around the outside through  Turns 16-18.

“It was very close,” he told F1-Insider. “I knew he was one of the toughest nuts to crack in the field and usually doesn’t leave that much room.

“But he was fair and I was also a bit cautious, after all I was ahead by a nose.”

Vettel’s post-race radio with his team was yet another reminder of why Formula 1 will miss him.

Vettel: Yes baby! Whoooo! Man we got him.
Engineer: Good job, sorry about the pit stop.
Vettel: Don’t knock yourself out because of the pit stop. Shit happens. Just make sure we learn from it.
Vettel: Did you count how many cars I passed around the outside at 16? Was it 3?
Engineer: Yeah, well done man.
Vettel: Nice one. Full of adrenaline at the end.

Crossing the line in eighth place but elevated to P7 after Fernando Alonso was penalised, Vettel extended his top-ten run to third.

With 38 points on the board, he’s just eight away from Valtteri Bottas in 10th place in the standings.

Read more: US Grand Prix driver ratings: Vintage Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo dismal