Sebastian Vettel said he came close to retiring from Formula One at the end of this season before he decided to sign with Aston Martin for 2021.
When Ferrari decided not to offer Vettel a contract extension for next year, the four-time world champion was left with very few options to continue in F1. Seats at top teams filled quickly and it soon became clear that Racing Point, which will rebrand as Aston Martin in 2021, was his only serious option.
Asked how close he came to retiring from F1 altogether, Vettel said: “Close. I don’t know if there is a measure of how close you can get.
“I was close in terms of having a lot of thought. Ultimately I have to put myself first in that regard and what I’ve decided now I believe is the best for me and looking forward to proving that.”
Vettel said Racing Point’s improved performance this year was a key factor in his decision as well as F1’s budget cap for 2021 and new regulations for 2022 that are aimed at levelling the playing field among teams.
“It wasn’t an easy call and as I said last weeks and months have been quite intense, different and new situation to be in,” he said. “From day one I felt like I wanted to remain if there was something that attracts me, and it was more clear performance wise this year, it was encouraging.
“And more so with the regulations changing it is going to be more of a level playing field and will be a lot of firsts, first time for the team to be in a position to have probably the same money as the other teams.”
Vettel said he asked a lot questions of team principal Otmar Szafnauer to gauge the long-term potential of the team before signing.
“I think first of all there’s a lot of potential growth and that’s obviously exciting,” he added “For me two things, one is due diligence, in terms of numbers where the team is, obviously I know some of the people, and I have known Otmar more than 10 years, of course you ask certain questions.
“Second, the key factor for me has been answering the question of what I want to do and get out of myself in F1. Once those things were clear I think the performance side was ticked fairly quickly and a lot of thinking on my side, what I want to get at again, once those things were clear it was clear what to do.”