LEWIS HAMILTON has paid tribute to Sebastian Vettel after the German confirmed he will retire from F1 at the end of the season.
But the two have since forged a friendship, with Vettel supporting Hamilton’s stance on racism, diversity and inclusivity.
Hamilton said: “There’s no lack of bravery in Sebastian. 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.
“I think he’s just a really beautiful human being and I’m really grateful to have been here in a time that he was racing.
“Watching his World Championships was impressive. I’m sad to have arrived today and seen the news, but I know whatever he goes and does beyond this is going to be even better.”
Vettel, 35, will leave Aston Martin when his deal expires at the end of the campaign after announcing his decision on Instagram.
The four-time world champion has always shunned social media but created an account to break the news ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian GP.
The father of three said he plans to spend more time with his family and managing his interests outside of F1, notably his environmental awareness campaign.
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In an eloquent video, he said: “Probably I should start with a long list of people to thank now, but I feel it is more important to explain the reasons behind my decision.
“I love this sport – it has been central to my life since I can remember.
“But as much as there is life on track, there is my life off track too. Being a racing driver has never been my sole identity.
“I very much believe in identity by who we are and how we treat others rather than what we do.
“Who am I? I am Sebastian — father of three children and husband to a wonderful woman. I am curious and easily fascinated by passionate or skilled people.
“I am obsessed with perfection. I am tolerant and feel we all have the same rights to live, no matter what we look like, where we come from and who we love. I love being outside and love nature and its wonders.
I believe in change and progress, and that every little bit makes a difference
“I am stubborn and impatient – I can be really annoying. I like to make people laugh. I like chocolate and the smell of fresh bread. My favourite colour is blue.
“I believe in change and progress, and that every little bit makes a difference. I am an optimist and I believe people are good.
“Next to racing, I have grown a family and I love being around them. I have grown other interests outside Formula One.
“My passion for racing and Formula One comes with lots of time spent away from them and takes a lot of energy.
“Committing to my passion the way I did and the way I think is right does no longer go side by side with my wish to be a great father and husband.
“The energy it takes to become one with the car and the team to chase perfection takes focus and commitment.
Looking back is only going to slow you down
“My goals have shifted from winning races and fighting for championships to seeing my children grow, passing on my values, helping them up when they fall, listening to them when they need me, not having to say goodbye, and most importantly being able to learn from them and let them inspire me.”
Vettel made his F1 debut with BMW Sauber in 2007 before enjoying stints at Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Ferrari and latterly Aston Martin.
Sunday will be his 291st F1 weekend and 290th start – but he says he has a new race to stop climate change.
He added: “My best race? Still to come. I believe in moving forwards and moving on – time is a one-way street and I want to go with the times.
“Looking back is only going to slow you down. I look forward to race down unknown tracks and I will be finding new challenges.
“The marks I left on track will stay until time and rain will wash them away. New ones will be put down.
“Tomorrow belongs to those shaping today. The next corner is in good hands as the new generation has already turned in.
“I believe there is still a race to win. Farewell, and thanks for letting me share the track with you – I loved every bit of it.”