Sebastian Vettel has revealed how a voice was "creeping up" on him telling him to announce his retirement from racing in Formula 1.
Four-time World Champion Vettel is set for his 299th and final Grand Prix start at the 2022 season-finale in Abu Dhabi, having raced full-time since 2008.
The German is set to bow out as the fourth most successful driver of all-time after a two-year stint at Aston Martin.
However, 35-year-old Vettel has revealed how retirement thoughts first hit him during the aftermath of his departure from Ferrari in 2020.
Vettel on retirement voice
"I think I just felt a big relief, because the decision is a very big, life-changing one to me," Vettel explained on the F1 Beyond The Grid podcast.
"It was in my head and growing inside me for a very long time, [and there were] a lot of conversations with my wife and with myself as well, trying to initially understand that voice that was creeping up and giving me an idea that it's time to move on, but initially I pushed it away.
"It kept growing, so it has been confusing at the beginning, and then a progress I would say.
"Once the decision was made, and it was out, then it was quite a relief.
"I think I was able to enjoy the time in the car more because I didn't have you know, these thoughts and to think about whether I will really do it or not anymore."
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Thoughts first hit after leaving Ferrari
During the COVID-delayed start to the 2022 season, Vettel's contract at Ferrari was not renewed, with the team electing to sign Carlos Sainz in his place to partner Charles Leclerc.
He admitted on the podcast that he was 'confused' at first but began to work 'analytically' through the decision to retire.
"I think initially it grows inside you, and it was a bit confusing because I had never had that feeling before," he explained.
"But after such a long time [travelling in F1], my life has changed as I have three kids at home, and I really enjoy that part of my life - and they are growing.
"It's been some years that the first thoughts [of retirement] were popping up, and after the change from Ferrari to Aston Martin, it was the first time we really thought: 'It might be time to stop or be my final contract - my final couple of years.
"Maybe one-two-three-four years, but my final period on Formula 1.
"Since then, [I've had] lots of thoughts and that voice just kept growing. I'm fairly analytical, so I've tried to take it apart as much as I can and then put it back together.
"It did take quite some time, but on the other hand, it's also a very big decision. So I'm happy that I had these two years.
"I've been thinking about it for a long time and try to look at it from all angles and imagine all sorts of scenarios beforehand, even though time will only tell how I will get on, but I'm sure life goes on, so I'll manage."
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