Will Sebastian Vettel relapse? The four-time world champion is only two grand prix away from the end of his Formula 1 career. A comeback plays at least one role in his considerations. "I think the moment you resign, you resign," said Vettel to the TV channel RTL in an interview before the Grand Prix in São Paulo this Sunday (7 p.m. / RTL and Sky). "But you can't rule anything out."
Of course Vettel can't. Why should he? Of course, these open statements inspire the fantasies of his fans that a resignation could only turn into a break. After all, there are one or two former Formula 1 world champions who have come out of retirement. Michael Schumacher, of course. Or Niki Lauda, who even became world champion again in 1984 after his comeback. Or Alain Prost, who only took a break in 1992 to actually end his career a year later with the fourth World Cup trophy in the strong Williams.
But there are also counterexamples. The motto: over and over. "That was ticked off for me," said Nico Rosberg about his Formula 1 time. "I crowned my career with the world title, just like I wanted." He therefore had "absolutely zero" thoughts about a return.
Exhausted from the world championship fight and psychological duel against his then teammate Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes driver Rosberg surprisingly ended his career after his triumph in 2016. The son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg then found a new life as an entrepreneur. Among other things, he has invested in startups and co-founded the Greentech Festival for innovation and sustainability.
"I am aware that the second step into life after sport is much more difficult," Vettel recently admitted in "Spiegel". He himself does not yet know exactly what he will do with the new professionally gained time in the future. It is clear that he wants to increase his commitment to human rights and climate protection.
Vettel described his departure from Formula 1 as a process of alienation. "In recent years I've asked myself how I deal with the fact that I fly to Japan, Brazil or Abu Dhabi and use up resources. But as a Formula 1 driver I couldn't change that," he said. "And so I got more and more into a conflict between what I represent for views and values and what I do. It doesn't go together."
The fact that he no longer plays a role in the title fight was also a factor that made Vettel decisive. In 2017 and 2018 he failed in the Ferrari at Hamilton. When his contract with Scuderia expired in 2020, Vettel thought about resigning, but decided to switch to Aston Martin again. So is it over for the long haul after that?
"I have no idea how I'll be in a year or two. As far as the body is concerned, I'm doing a sport that you could still come back to after a two-year break. However, I wish that I'd still be saying in two years' time: ' No thanks, I don't need racing anymore," Vettel said in a self-conjuring tone.
Schumacher also resigned once. In 2006 he retired exhausted at the age of 37 as a World Cup runner-up. Four years later he was back at Mercedes. "My old racing hunger has awakened again," said Schumacher at the time. With his development work over three years, Vettel's idol laid the foundation for the later series titles of the Silver Arrows.
"I think everyone is different. Everyone has a different life and goes their own way. Maybe there are certain parallels here and there, but I don't think I can answer the question in that sense," Vettel said of a possible parallel to Schumacher. "Today I can answer it with 'No', but maybe next year or two years I will think differently about it. Time will tell."
What will be decisive for the former thoroughbred racing driver is how he can fill his new life, which has been structured by racing calendars since he was seven. And if Vettel's projects aren't challenging enough, what could Formula 1 offer him later?
Competition, attention - and from 2026 greener engine regulations. In the same year, a German works team entered Formula 1 at Audi. That would be a comeback story. But all speculation. "If you liked something, you can also be attached to it," said Vettel. "But I want to go the other way, detach myself and find out: there are enough other exciting things, I manage to open the next door and find my happiness there."