Four times Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel bowed out of Ferrari on Sunday with one last, slightly wobbly, song of thanks over the radio in Italian and a large trophy as a parting gift.
The German, who had hoped to emulate boyhood hero and Ferrari great Michael Schumacher when he arrived at Maranello, finished 14th in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and one place behind team mate Charles Leclerc.
“Grazie Seb,” was written on a pit board as the team assembled for a group photo accompanied by a large Champions League-style trophy celebrating Vettel’s 14 wins in six years in Italy.
Vettel, who is joining Aston Martin (the renamed Racing Point) next season, ranks third on the list of Ferrari’s all-time winners and is the most successful not to win a championship with them.
He also notched up 12 poles and 55 podiums for the Italian team as well as 14 fastest laps.
“It was an emotional day with the mechanics waving goodbye on the grid. I felt there was a different dynamic and tension there,” the German, who won his titles with Red Bull from 2010-13, told reporters.
“I am sad for the guys, I will miss them but also happy to embark on a new journey.”
After the race he gave a farewell rendition of ‘Azzurro’, a popular 1960s song by Adriano Celentano, on his slowing down lap.
“Every time I was really excited for some reason (at Ferrari) I started to sing and I think it was a nice way for one last time to sing again,” he said.
“I changed the lyrics so I hope I don’t get in trouble with copyright. I think it was a good way to express my gratitude for the team.”
Vettel said the trophy took him by surprise: “I’ve never finished P14 before and got a trophy so it was definitely a nice memory.”
He added that he had no regrets, but would miss the many friends he had made.
“I have learned so much from this team and they have given me so much. I am very grateful for that,” he said.
The pandemic-hit 2020 season, with Ferrari slumping to sixth overall and their worst performance in 40 years, was a poor reflection on the great times they had together, he added.
“I think nothing about today should get mentioned,” said the 33-year-old, whose lows have been more frequent than the highs of late.
“I think it was quite a bad and poor race from us but I enjoyed it.”