Sebastian Vettel told Lewis Hamilton he “deserves all” of his Formula 1 success after his generational rival clinched a sixth world championship title.
Despite retiring from the US GP early on in Austin on a surprisingly troubled Sunday for Ferrari, Vettel appeared in the cool-down room before the podium to personally congratulate Hamilton on the Mercedes drivers’ latest F1 triumph.
Vettel and Hamilton, the winners of nine of the 10 world titles this decade and now 10 in total, have developed a strong mutual respect for each other’s achievements and abilities.
“I think now is the time for you to write as many good things as you can,” said Vettel of Hamilton’s sixth title.
“If somebody wins the title six times he deserves all of it. That’s what I told him as well.”
After vying with Hamilton for the titles for much of the previous two seasons before losing out, Vettel has not been a title challenger this year with Ferrari unable to mount a year-long challenge to Mercedes.
“Obviously I’m happy for him, I’m not happy that we are not in contention this year and we were so far back,” said Vettel, fifth in the championship.
“But you need to respect what he achieved the last years and also this year, together with his team how strong they have been.
“I’m happy for him but less happy for us.”
Charles Leclerc, Vettel’s Ferrari team mate and their lead driver in the championship this year, also paid his respects to Hamilton. Leclerc was just 11 when the Briton won his first world crown in 2008.
“On my side, I didn’t even win one world title – only one title is already is a huge achievement, to win six is just incredible,” said the 22-year-old.