Despite knowing he would leave Ferrari at the end of 2020, Sebastian Vettel pulled the team together says sporting director Laurent Mekies.
As the 2020 season entered its closing stages a brief glimmer of hope appeared for Ferrari that they could walk away from a frustrating campaign with P3 in the Constructors’ Championship.
The fightback never materialised though and after a season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where neither Ferrari scored points, the team were forced to settle for P6, their weakest showing since 1980.
That grand prix also marked Vettel’s final with the Scuderia after a six-year stint, in which time his 14 race wins made him the third-most successful Ferrari driver of all time.
And after the race Ferrari were keen to express their gratitude to the four-time World Champion.
“We certainly don’t feel like it’s a normal Sunday,” said Mekies after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“It’s a very special Sunday because it’s Seb’s last race.
“We wanted to say a real thank you to Seb for what have been these six years with us. He’s the third-most winning driver in Ferrari history.
“What we will keep with us is that he is an outstanding professional, that in good moments and in bad moments has been part of the team, putting it together.”
Ferrari announced that Vettel wouldn’t be retained for 2021 before the 2020 season even began, but despite that, Mekies said Vettel continued to pull the team together in the hard times they encountered this season.
“Of course we are finishing in the most difficult scenario possible, but even in these conditions, it’s been a year where he has been pulling us together, always keeping constructive and positive no matter what difficulties we were having,” Mekies added.
“That’s the way you drive large teams like us, with everybody at the race track and Maranello.”
Here are some shots from our #F1 finale ❤️
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) December 16, 2020
Vettel said he will “cherish” his time with Ferrari, even if the partnership didn’t manage to deliver a World Championship as hoped.
“I have no regrets looking back. Certainly there’s been mistakes, there have been highs and lows but I think it has sunk in,” he said.
“I’m not normally the most emotional guy, it’s not today that I will remember after finishing 14th, but looking at the big picture it’s a day that I will treasure.
“It’s a goodbye to many friends and many people that I have worked with a lot in the last years, so those I will miss. But I’m sure that I will not miss them completely – we have a saying in German, I don’t know if you have it in English, but it’s that you always see each other twice in life.
“I think time will tell but I’ve learnt so much from this team and they’ve given me so much, I’m very grateful for that. It’s beyond titles or victories. For sure, that’s what we were after, but in the end we didn’t get but it doesn’t change anything and I wish this team well.”
Vettel’s seat at Ferrari will be taken by Carlos Sainz for 2021, while Vettel makes the move to Aston Martin to race alongside Lance Stroll.