All 20 Formula One drivers gathered for a special dinner in Abu Dhabi to celebrate the career of Sebastian Vettel, who is set to retire following this weekend's season finale.
With teams descending on Yas Marina Circuit and the after-race concerts back with a bang, the group of drivers enjoyed some rare downtime together at Michelin-starred restaurant Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, located at Emirates Palace.
They dined in the restaurant’s private seating area and posed for pictures together outside on the terrace. Several drivers used the moment to celebrate four-time world champion Vettel on social media, before lining up beside him for one last time on Sunday.
Sir Lewis Hamilton posted a picture with Vettel as well as a group shot from the evening. “We’ve come a long way as drivers and continue to grow as men,” he wrote. “Despite whatever may happen on the track we grow and become better each day. Us all coming together to celebrate life and Seb’s amazing career in F1 is truly a night I’ll never forget.”
Lando Norris shared the same group shot, plus several outtakes, alongside the caption: “Class of 2022 … for Seb.”
While George Russell wrote: “Great evening with the rest of the guys celebrating Seb’s last race. Cheers!”
Pierre Gasly said: “Amazing night, fabulous stories, one awesome united group. Congrats @sebastianvettel!”
The picture was also shared by the official Formula One Instagram account, receiving more than 1.3 million likes at the time of writing.
The dinner was the first of many tributes to Vettel that will take place across the weekend. Vettel’s longtime rival Fernando Alonso announced he will wear a special helmet in Vettel's honour for Sunday’s race.
Vettel spoke to media on arrival in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, saying he feels “OK” ahead of his final race weekend.
"I think it's difficult in a way to grasp, but yeah, I am aware of what's happening and I'm happy about it. As far as I can be," he said. "I guess it will be, at some point, a little bit different. It does feel a little bit different already today even though, like I said, a lot of it is routine. How much and how it will be, I don't know yet. I guess you'll have to ask me again if you catch me."
The German driver, 35, races for the Aston Martin team and won the first of his four consecutive world titles with Red Bull in 2010. He also spent six seasons with Ferrari.
Announcing his retirement in the summer, he said: “I have had the privilege of working with many fantastic people in Formula One over the past 15 years — there are far too many to mention and thank.
“The decision to retire has been a difficult one for me to take, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about it.
“At the end of the year I want to take some more time to reflect on what I will focus on next; it is very clear to me that, being a father, I want to spend more time with my family. But today is not about saying goodbye. Rather, it is about saying thank you — to everyone — not least to the fans, without whose passionate support Formula One could not exist.”