The four-time world champion announced ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix that he will hang up his F1 helmet when his contract expires at the end of the current campaign, bringing to a close a 15-year career. 

The 35-year-old, who will leave F1 as one of the most successful drivers in the sport’s history, spoke honestly and openly about his decision during a lengthy briefing with the media, including, at the Hungaroring.

"I think for every sportsman and woman, actually, probably the biggest challenge is probably waiting for us while we decide to do other things,” Vettel said. 

“That’s what I’m facing and in all honesty, I’m also scared of what’s coming. It might be a hole and I don’t know how deep it is and whether I’ll get out of it. 

“But I have lots of support and people who have supported me along the way and will continue to help me and give me direction and guidance. 

“Hopefully I’ll make the right decisions in the future to progress and become a better version of myself in 10 years time.” 

When asked what he will miss most about F1, Vettel replied: “The buzz of driving the car. There are still fast cars and the adrenaline you get fighting on the track, of course I thought about that as well. I will say no to that and there’s probably no replacement. 

“I’ve also looked at others and how they handled and tried to maybe find something else that tried to give them the adrenaline buzz or rush, but as far as I can tell now, it’s something you have to be prepared for.  I feel I am prepared as much as I can today, to say that it’s gone and will not be there. 

“If I want to race something - my kids want to race me every day in all sorts of things, some I enjoy more and some I enjoy less - but if I want to race more I’m sure I will be able to think of something. 

“But I think it would be wrong to step away knowing that you still want to race.”

Why the time is right for Vettel 

While Vettel revealed he only took the final decision on Wednesday, he said the question of retirement was something that had been playing on his mind for a long time. 

The German said he is no longer willing to spend so much time away from his wife and three children, while he also has other interests he wishes to pursue. 

“Well, the timeline takes us years back. It’s not a decision I made overnight,” Vettel explained. “The final decision was taken yesterday by telling the team I am going to stop and not going to continue, but there was a lot of thought leading into this. 

“I think it’s the right time for me to do other things. I know how intense this job is and how much dedication goes into this and if you do this I am convinced you have to do it the right way. 

“I don’t get much pleasure and motivation from being here and just being part of it, so the aim is and always has been to win and compete at the front. 

“I think I have been very privileged to have so many great teams and cars in the past that I was always able to achieve so many things. I think in terms of greatness, this team doesn’t fall short of any of the ones before, but obviously we are not as strong as we would have loved to be. 

“So we didn’t race for front positions, but in terms of effort, team spirit and quality, there is all the right ingredients and I do think the team will make progress in the year to come and the years after. 

“As I said, so much dedication going in also means a lot of time in your head and with your thoughts, but also physically time away from home, from kids and family. I have grown other things, other than the children, other interests and views have grown and I can’t ignore these voices. 

"So ultimately, the questions got bigger and bigger and more central, to a point where I make the decision. 

“It’s not a 100 percent or zero percent decision, it’s not like I hate racing from now on, I still love racing, but it’s probably the majority that pulls me in a different direction. I’m not making way, because it’s my decision, but I’m happy to head in a different direction.” 

Vettel’s environmental concerns ‘not the main factor’

Asked how much his environmental concerns played a role in his decision, Vettel responded: “It’s one of the factors that definitely played a role. 

“I can’t give you a number in terms of percentage of what it meant to me, but for sure seeing the world changing and seeing the future in a very threatened position for all of us and especially for generations to come, I understand that part of my passion and my job is coming with things that I am not a fan of. 

“Obviously, travelling the world, racing cars and burning resources, literally, are things that I cannot look away from. Once I think you see these things and you are aware, I don’t think you can really un-see it. 

“It’s not the main factor, like I said it is a combination of many things, but it is also part of the driver behind it.”

Earlier this year, Vettel was labelled as a hypocrite by Canadian politician Sonya Savage for championing environmental issues while continuing to race in F1, while he also faced similar questions during an appearance on BBC Question Time.

"I don’t mind people calling me a hypocrite because I know I am myself, I don’t need to be told,” Vettel said. “Once you see these things, you look around and the whole room is full of hypocrites in this regard. 

“But it’s not about how much of a hypocrite you are or you are not, it’s about how much you can do. And some of us can do a lot and others can do very little, but it all makes a difference. 

“Like I said, it wouldn’t be fair to sit here and say that as an excuse. And it would be also the wrong driver behind a decision like that. 

“I’ve done this my entire life, it’s been the centre of my life for so long and it’s probably better to sum it up like I have before with things growing with the awareness, but my children are literally growing every day, my family, but then other interests, other things that I would like to spend more time on. 

“The answer also is whether these things satisfy you enough, and I don’t know time will tell. It’s always when you decide to head into a different direction you don’t always know what’s waiting for you behind the corner, but I am very curious to find out what’s next than hanging on to what’s now.”