Sebastian Vettel has announced he will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season after 16 seasons in the series.

Vettel had remained tight lipped on his future with his contract at Aston Martin due to expire at the end of 2022, but hinted his intention was to sign a new deal at last week’s French Grand Prix.

But in a post on his new Instagram account on Thursday, Vettel revealed he has decided to call time on career.

“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,” Vettel said.

“Over the past two years I have been an Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One™ Team driver – and, although our results have not been as good as we had hoped, it is very clear to me that everything is being put together that a team needs to race at the very highest level for years to come.”

“I hope that the work I did last year and am continuing to do this year will be helpful in the development of a team that will win in the future, and I will work as hard as I can between now and the end of the year with that goal in mind, giving as always my best in the last 10 races.

“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.”

Vettel made his F1 debut at the 2007 US Grand Prix replacing Robert Kubica in a one-off appearance for BMW Sauber after the Pole’s huge crash at the previous race in Canada, finishing a respectable eighth to become the youngest driver to score a point.

He was soon signed by Toro Rosso for a full-time race seat, and the following year would secure a the team’s first-ever victory at the Italian Grand Prix in wet conditions.

This earned Vettel a promotion to the senior Red Bull team for 2009, and just a year later he would secure his first world title at the final race in Abu Dhabi – at 23 becoming the youngest-ever world champion.

Three consecutive world championship’s followed during a dominant period, which included nine successive victories in the second half of the 2013 season.

After a difficult 2014 campaign, Vettel moved to Ferrari where he hoped to replicate the success of his hero and countryman Michael Schumacher.

Despite winning 14 races during his six seasons at the team, Vettel would fail to add another drivers’ crown, finishing runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in 2017 and 2018.

Vettel made the switch to Aston Martin last year, where despite an underperforming car he managed to secure the British manufacturer’s first F1 podium in Baku – helping it to seventh place in the constructors’ standings.

A major regulation change gave fresh hope that Aston Martin could return to the front of the grid, but the team has struggled this year – with Vettel’s sixth place in Baku its highest finish so far this season.

Vettel’s retirement opens up a seat alongside Lance Stroll for 2023, which could trigger a major shift in the drivers market.

“Sebastian is a superb driver – fast, intelligent and strategic – and of course we are going to miss those qualities,” said Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack.

“However, we have all learned from him, and the knowledge that we have gained from working with him will continue to benefit our team long after his departure.

“Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One™ Team is a great project, with unlimited potential, and the groundwork that Sebastian has done last year, and is still doing this year, is crucial.

“When we become fully competitive – and we will – one of the architects of that future success will be Sebastian, and we will always be grateful to him for that.”