Vettel: I was close to walking away from Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel said he had come close to retiring before Racing Point offered him a chance to continue in Formula 1 next season.

Asked on Thursday ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix at Italy’s Mugello circuit how close he was to walking away, the four-times world champion replied: “Close”.

“Is there a measure of how close you can get? It was close in terms of having a lot of thoughts and deciding what’s ultimately…I have to put myself first in that regard, what’s best for me,” Vettel told reporters in a video conference.

“What I’ve decided now I believe is the best for me, and I’m looking forward to proving that.”

Vettel was told by Ferrari in May, after the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the start of the season, that they would not be extending his contract beyond this year.

In July the 33-year-old German recognised he could leave Formula 1 for good.

Racing Point, to be renamed Aston Martin F1 next season, were his best option. They are currently fourth with a car based on last year’s title-winning Mercedes, while Ferrari are sixth.

“The second key factor for me has been answering to myself the question of what I want to do and get out of myself in a potential future in Formula 1,” he said.

Vettel would not reveal details of his contract or the duration, although Racing Point have said it is for 2021 and beyond, “I’m looking forward to the change because I believe we can do well.

“I believe the team has huge potential. There’s some really good, clever people on board and I’m looking forward to help and show those qualities are there and demonstrate that as well with results.

Vettel has struggled at Ferrari since young Monegasque Charles Leclerc arrived, making basic errors and looking uncomfortable in the car.

He said joining Racing Point/Aston Martin, where his teammate Lance Stroll is the son of billionaire Canadian owner Lawrence, just seemed the right thing to do, “It feels good that the news is out…a lot of questions will probably stop now.”