In a moving speech, Sebastian Vettel paid tribute to late race director Charlie Whiting at a commemoration ceremony held at Silverstone on Thursday.

What should make us proud of Sebastian Vettel (32) is not only his performance on the track. Rather, it is his great character that slumbers within him. Slumbers because he protects his true self. His private life is sacred to him. This contrast fascinates.

As aggressive as he often acts on the tracks for the whole world to see, he protects his private life with all his might. In contrast, most of his Formula 1 colleagues make use of any performances off the tracks to work on their image as superstars.

For example, a very professional media performance in a red Ferrari in front of a restaurant in Los Angeles, that Lewis Hamilton celebrated recently is an absolute no-go for Vettel.

His motto: The Vettel races on the tracks around the world, but the Sebastian in him stays at home and protects his family – ideally, with a large moat and forest around it.

But there are moments in the life of this young German from Hesse, that even he can’t prevent to show his true self to the public. His intelligence, his sensitivity, his big heart.

Thursday night at Silverstone was such a moment. The quadruple world champion was to give a speech remembering the late Charlie Whiting at a commemoration ceremony on behalf of all Formula 1 drivers, who died unexpectedly in March at the age of 66 years during the Australian GP.

The association of British racers had invited around 200 guests at their clubhouse close to the Silverstone tracks to posthumously honor the long-time race director of Formula 1.

Vettel took this honor seriously. Very seriously! The Heppenheimer, who hated to write long texts at school, spent hours at home to work on his speech. He wanted to do it alone, without help to truly honor Charlie.

Dressed in a black shirt, he entered the lectern and read from his manuscript. Slow, emphatic, serious, without falling into theatrical mourning. His words struck the hearts of the audience and brought tears to Whiting’s family members.

Vettel is a winner of the British Grand Prix, regardless of the outcome this weekend. But a winner against his will. As later was revealed Sebastian Vettel wanted to keep his speech private, only within his “Formula 1 family”.

But the marketers from Formula 1 put his speech on the net and on social media for the whole world to see.

When I later spoke to Sebastian, he just shrugged, almost disillusioned, just with his shoulders. He had given me the speech to read beforehand and he asked me not to publish it and I would have kept my promise.

But now, in turn of events, I changed my mind. Now Vettel should receive the recognition that the Sebastian did not want because everyone should see what a great character hides behind the facade of a shy racing driver. Here is the speech:

In motorsport, we depend on the stopwatch. We depend on time. We chase time. We become experts in chasing time. Sometimes it appears we catch it. We’re able to hold on to it for a moment before the moment is gone again. We go in circles, chasing time. We forget the world around us. It feels like flying. For us, it is the greatest feeling we can experience. But it comes at a cost. The risk we take is one worth taking to get that feeling, again and again.

F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. With no other cars, one can go faster, chasing after time.

But it is also the pinnacle because of you. You’ve made that chase safer for our generations. In fact, we believe climbing into our cars today is safer than into any other car. We call them our cars, but a lot of them belong to you. You have not been our guardian angel, as angels show up only occasionally. No, you have been our guard. Working every day, standing guard every time we are on track. You are a great part of our lives today. More than we know. More than we can express. And more than we can imagine. Your efforts, your ideas, your love for racing, your love for the sport have helped und will continue to help save lives. Your impact has been so profound that saying thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough. The marks you’ve left on track are beyond those of a perfect lap. Your style was so balanced, it seemed like you’d found the perfect setup.

In the name of all the current Formula 1 drivers, and for the drivers that worked with you, we finally want to say: You were a true race. You were our Race Director. You were our guard. You were our friend.

And you shall stay around because one is alive until the last one forgets about you. We will remember you. Take care, Charlie.

*This article was first published in German at


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