Bernie Ecclestone says he misses the ‘old’ version of Sebastian Vettel.
Indeed, in the German driver’s formative years in Formula 1, he was famously close to the now-former F1 supremo.
“He has changed,” the 92-year-old told RTL.
“When I first met him, he was a little boy. Very shy and very polite,” Ecclestone said. “Now he’s grown into a real man who knows how to take care of himself, knows what he wants to do and who goes on and does it.
“So it’s a different Sebastian.”
Ecclestone, however, says that the extent of 35-year-old Vettel’s transformation came as a surprise.
“I don’t know what made him change his direction and attitude,” he said.
“Before, he always had an opinion that he didn’t mention to the people. Now he has an outlet for his opinion, so he lets people know what he thinks. He wants to help everyone and the world in any way he can.
“I just miss him as a person and as a racer.”
Interestingly, as Vettel and Ecclestone moved further apart ideologically, the German became closer to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
In Brazil, Hamilton said he will miss Vettel “as an ally” when he hangs up his F1 helmet next weekend in Abu Dhabi.
“Out of all the drivers that I’ve raced with, Seb was the first one to stand by me and take the knee with me,” he said.
“He is the first one to go out of his way to fight for things he cares about. I don’t believe I’ve seen any driver in the history of the sport do what he and I have been doing in terms of utilising the platform, being outspoken and taking that risk.”