Sebastian Vettel has said that former teammate and Finnish F1 legend Kimi Raikkonen is the most talented driver he has faced in his time on the grid, as the four-time world champion prepares for his final race before retiring at the Abu Dhabi GP.
Vettel revealed ahead of the Hungarian GP earlier this season that the 2022 season would be his last in F1 after 14 years, during which he won four consecutive world titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013.
After Red Bull the German followed in the footsteps of his compatriot and F1 idol Michael Schumacher and joined Ferrari, but his time with the Scuderia while bringing more wins failed to yield another championship, and Vettel left to join Aston Martin for the 2021 season.
Despite a car which has never looked like threatening the frontrunners, Vettel has managed to secure podium results for the team and remains competitive in his performances, with many fans shocked that he announced his retirement this year.
In recent years the driver has increasingly turned his attention to environmental causes, which he says have played a role in his decision to part ways with the sport.
“Just a natural”
Vettel has driven alongside some of the most gifted drivers that F1 has produced, but speaking to the Beyond the Grid podcast he said it was Raikkonen who most impressed him during his time on the grid.
“I think Kimi [Raikkonen] is actually the biggest natural talent I’ve come across, ever,” Vettel said.
“Just in terms of raw speed, I think. And it shows in the car, obviously, but it shows also in any other form of car. I think switching – if there was a discipline of switching cars every day – after 10 days he would be lapping everybody else, just because he’s just a natural, it doesn’t take time to adapt to the car, to what the car requires.
“If you give him a steering wheel, he knows what to do with it. Sometimes you feel it’s unfair, you need to get used to it first and get an idea of the track or the conditions, but for him it’s just… boom.”
Vettel added that his relationship with Raikkonen was the most positive he had with any of his teammates.
The German has had his fair share of clashes with his teammates, perhaps most famously in the Red Bull ‘Multi 21’ scandal where he refused to let Mark Webber pass him despite being told to do so by his team.
“I think with him, I probably had the best relationship out of all the team mates I had, because he was just so straightforward. There was never an argument. If we crashed into each other we talked about it, fixed what happened, maybe laughed about it,” he said.
“But there was never a question that anything could sort of shake up or destabilse the, I don’t want to say bond, but relationship that we had.
He’s been probably also the one when I came in, I remember, he was so respectful from the day I walked in, looking into my eyes. With other drivers I felt, ‘OK I’m shaking hands, I’m saying hello, but actually the guy’s not present, he’s not here’.
“With people, I think Kimi’s been exceptional.”