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F1 Drivers Call Vettel an ‘Inspiration,’ ‘Legend,’ Irreplaceable – Sports Illustrated

Sebastian Vettel ahead of Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.
IMAGO / HochZwei
Formula One drivers did not sugarcoat their touching tribute to one of the sport’s greatest drivers on and off the track, Sebastian Vettel. 
The Aston Martin driver announced via Instagram that he will retire from F1 at the end of the season. Throughout his storied career, he recorded four world championships (’10 to ’13), 53 race wins and 122 podiums. There are still 10 Grands Prix left on the calendar. 
But his impact extended beyond just racing, as Vettel never hesitated to speak out about environmental matters or human rights. 
“There’s no lack of bravery in Sebastian,” Lewis Hamilton told Sky Sports Thursday. “He has been one of the very, very few drivers in racing history that has stood for much more than himself. He’s used his voice in things that I’ve fought for and stood by me, he’s taken the knee, he’s gone on his own journey and stood on the grid and fought for things that he believed in, and for the greater good.”  
The Mercedes driver described in his media availability how Vettel was one of the few on the grid over the years that stood with him to make change. 
“When I talk about the journey that I’ve felt I’ve experienced in this sport and often feeling that it’s been relatively lonely, he’s one of the few people that’s made it not feel lonely,” Hamilton said ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend. “He stood by me through a lot of things.
"I always remember 2007, a press conference in Magny-Cours and him being very outspoken in a drivers' briefing and I knew then he would be a powerful figure in the sport. Then seeing his success and seeing that he puts others before himself… he's been so brave in speaking out and standing for what he believes in.
“I think he’s one of the greatest people we’ve seen in this sport and we need more like him. Sad because I’ve lost an ally in this side of the sport on the grid, but I know that outside he will be doing great things and we will always remain friends and I hope there are other things we get to do together outside.”
Carlos Sainz commented about the type of role model Vettel was, even back when the Spaniard was a simulator driver during the German’s peak years at Red Bull. 
“I could see how professional he was, and it gave me a very good insight into it how you need to behave, or how do you need to be, to be a successful Formula One driver like he was. I remember those years very well,” Sainz said Thursday. “He always had kind words for me, stop and have a chat with me, and give me some advice. He’s a great role model as these guys have said already, and he’s ambassador for the sport, but not only for sport but I think also for a younger generation that is coming through, and a type of career that you would look up to no? 
“Always getting on well with all the teams, with everyone. Everyone in the paddock loves him, you know? You will not hear someone speaking bad about Seb.”
Daniel Ricciardo, who used to be teammates with Vettel, commented that the news was “in a way, sad of course, because you’re losing a bit of a legend of the sport.” Esteban Ocon later mentioned that he spoke with the Aston Martin driver several weeks ago, and retirement so soon was “not the thought I had” when they discussed his future. 
“On our case, he was a great ambassador of all drivers, and he has raised his voice…when there was concern for our safety and for any sorts of things that he didn’t like in regards to drivers,” the Alpine driver said. 
George Russell said Vettel is an “such an inspiration and such a humble bloke.” Meanwhile, Sergio Pérez commented that he was “very proud of Seb, of what he has achieved,” per Autosport
“He has everything you’d hope for a colleague to achieve. So, I’m very proud of him and wish the best to him and his family. I think that’s a very personal decision. I think that’s extremely personal, it’s how you feel and what you want to do and how your family is.
“When you get older you definitely put other priorities in place, and then you are not willing to pay the price of being an F1 driver because it has a price. Sometimes you are and sometimes you are not.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who used to be teammates with Vettel, said that the announcement was “sad,” at least for him. 
“Maybe for him he’s much happier in the place he’s going now. Obviously, it’s going to be strange to not see Seb inside the paddock. I’ve learned so much driving with him, and he’s always been super-nice to me. I’ll definitely miss having Seb in the paddock, but I wish him the best and I’m sure he will find other things that will make him happy in another way.”
Mick Schumacher, meanwhile, described that Vettel’s departure will leave a “huge hole” in the sport. The duo had grown a close friendship over the years, and Vettel texted Schumacher Thursday morning about his retirement. 
“It’s much more than just the races,” Schumacher said, per Autosport. “It’s being able to go visit him in the evenings and have dinner with him. That’s what I’m really going to miss. He’s just somebody that I’m able to talk to in my own language. He’s going to be super, super missed by everybody, but especially by me.”
The Haas F1 driver added, “I think nobody can replace Sebastian. That's a fact. If it's not on track, it's in a political way, and I think that yes, it is important to have somebody who speaks up and also attacks those points.
“But I think Sebastian has not stopped yet. As he said in his video, there’s more to come. And I’m sure that we can all learn from what he still has to say. I’m sure that he will still have a big voice in F1 even if he’s not himself driving.”
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