The German has retired from racing in Formula 1 after a stellar career. He won four world titles in a row with Red Bull in the early part of his career, while also securing his place in the history books as one of the sport’s most successful ever drivers.
Some of his 53 F1 race wins came while he was wearing the red overalls of Ferrari, but more championship glory eluded him during his time with the Scuderia. Instead, in his final season at Maranello, Vettel admits he was already considering quitting the sport.
“In ’17, we had a great car, and we fell short,” he told F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast. “[In] ’18, we had a great car, [but] we fell short again, at the end. Just both years, we didn’t keep the development pace up and we just fell back, so we got beaten.
“’19 was a bit of an odd year, because the start of the season wasn’t, let’s say – to me, at least – giving me [or] us the momentum to feel: ‘Alright, here we go again’. So then you start to think [about] what might have actually been the problem the last couple of years, and maybe there were too many thoughts. At the same time, Charles came in.”
Leclerc had only been racing in F1 for a year when he got the call up to Ferrari. His contract also turned heads at the time, as he was given a five-year contract – a clear sign that the Italians saw him as a key part of their long-term future.
Vettel was clearly not in the same boat. He only spent that one season as team-mate to Leclerc, before starting afresh with Aston Martin. But looking back on that 2019 campaign, although it again did not yield the success he would have wanted, the German has fond memories of working with the young Monegasque.
Vettel even went as far as to say Leclerc reminded him of himself – high praise indeed coming from one of the sport’s most decorated champions. “[Leclerc was] in a very different time in his career and his life,” he added.
“And it was funny, because I watched him and we got along really well, I think. I really enjoyed the time we spent together. He taught me some things, not necessarily about driving, but it was a little bit as if I was looking at my younger self, and it did take a little bit of time to understand that.”