Vettel Retires, Alonso Tackles Aston Martin Seat

Fernando Alonso, Photo: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Team
Photo: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Team
Sebastian Vettel, Photo: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Team

A lot happened during this past weekend’s Formula One race meeting at Hungary, which is the last time we’ll see F1 in action until after its traditional late-summer break. There are goings, there are comings, there was a new pole sitter, the usual 2022 race winner and some customary errors. Some happened on the track, some off. All were newsworthy.

As news of four-time  consecutive Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel’s pending retirement at the close of this year’s F1 schedule was known, the tributes began pouring in, from his competitors, his teammates, tributes from people who had met the German driver in passing. Every single one of them showed the humanity of Vettel, who has been driving for Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant the past two seasons.

Third on the all-time list of Grands Prix winners, Vettel owns 53 victories, behind only Lewis Hamilton with 103 and Michael Schumacher’s 91 F1 wins. Always one to do things on his own terms, Vettel has made efforts over the past several years or so to stand up for human rights of all manner, to promote kindness without outlying rationales and, of course, to bring his team upwards in the tough arena of F1 racing.

Fernando Alonso, Photo: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Team

His 15-year career in F1 has been marked by success on the track and quietude off it. Never one to allow the public access to his private life, Vettel leaves to spend more time with his family, to promote the causes he believes in and to enjoy the excellent health he’s maintained. There are nine more opportunities to watch Vettel on an F1 grid.

“The decision to retire has been a difficult one to take and I have spent a lot of time thinking about it,” he said. “At the end of the year, I will want to take some more time to reflect on what I will focus on next; it is very clear to me that, being a father, I want to spend more time with my family. But today is not about saying goodbye. Rather it is about saying thank you – to everyone – not least to the fans, without whose passionate support Formula one could not exist.”

Sebastian Vettel made his initial F1 debut in 2007, alongside Hamilton and the duo have, together, protested racial inequality and campaigned for human rights and environmental issues over the years. The two have raced one another hard and fair since that time and, with Vettel’s announcement Hamilton had this to say: “Seb, it’s been an honor to call you a competitor and an even great honor to call you my friend. Leaving this sport better than you found it is always the goal. I have no doubt that whatever comes next for you will be exciting, meaningful and rewarding. Love you, man.”

After this love-fest came the Austrian Grand Prix, won by Max Verstappen of Red Bull once Ferrari found another way to pooch themselves out of victory once again. It wasn’t the kind of weekend Vettel was looking for, but he persevered and took a single point for tenth place after the flags acknowledged the winner, Mercedes-Benz’s Hamilton and pole-sitting George Russell on podium. Waiting until after the race was done, Aston Martin announced that two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso would join the team in 2023 on a multi-year contract.

Is this a big gamble for the 41-year-old? Sure it is but from what the Spanish star can see from his current team, Alpine and what he sees in Lawrence Stroll’s Aston Martin team likely made the switch easy for him to make. Before this past weekend, Alonso had intended to stay with Alpine for the 2023, was in contract talks – and then Vettel made his choice known. It was an easy roll of the dice for Alonso at that point.

In announcing that Alonso would join the team in 2023, Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant chairman Lawrence Stroll said, “I have known and admired Fernando for many years and it has always been clear that he is a committed winner like me. I have set out to bring together the best people and develop the right resources and organization to succeed in this highly competitive sport, and those plans are now taking shape at Silverstone. It seemed natural, therefore, to invite Fernando to be part of the development of a winning team, and we very quickly established, in our recent conversations, that we have the same ambitions and values. It was logical and easy to confirm our desire to work together.”

Alonso finds his new team “one of the most exciting teams in Formula One today,” he said in confirming his change. “I have known Lawrence and Lance for many years and it is quite obvious that they have the ambition and passion to succeed in Formula One. I have watched as the team has systematically attracted great people with winning pedigrees and I have become aware of the huge commitment to new facilities and resources at Silverstone,” where the Aston Martin team has its workshops.

“I still have the hunger and ambition to fight to be at the front, and I want to be part of an organization that is committed to learn, develop and succeed. We all appreciate that there is much to be done to get to the front, and that we must apply all our energies in working together to find performance. The passion and desire to perform that I have witnessed convince me to maintain my enjoyment and commitment to the sport. I intend to win again in this sport and, therefore, I have to take the opportunities that feel right to me,” Alonso concluded.

Fernando Alonso’s F1 career was bracketed by his tries to win the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans, where he has secured two victories, in 2018 and 2019. It’s been his desire to be successful in all facets of motor sport and, once his Formula One career is complete, it would not be a surprise to see him tackle the Indianapolis 500 challenge once again.

No doubt during the summer break, more announcements will be made about the driver merry-go-round. There’s an open seat, obviously, with Alpine and plenty of drivers wanting to fill it. Who will be that team’s choice?

About Anne Proffit 1264 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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