Vettel retired from grand prix racing after the Yas Marina event last weekend, having decided to call time on his career so he can spend more time at home with his family.
It also comes against the backdrop of him becoming an environmental campaigner, having done much to raise the profile of climate and social concerns over the past few years.
As he walked in to the F1 paddock for the last time as a driver in Abu Dhabi, Vettel was seen sporting a black T-shirt that featured an image of the world above the word: ‘Invitation’.
The design prompted many questions about what the meaning behind it was – which the four-time champion has since clarified.
Speaking to fans on social media, Vettel explained that it was based on his desire to invite people to help make an impact in addressing climate change.
“It's really about an invitation to see the sort of power and influence that we can have on a lot of people,” he explained on an Instagram video.
Vettel revealed that his own awareness of wider issues was triggered by the arrival of his daughters and then, shortly after, the death of his father-in-law
“I have to admit when I was young, when I was 20/25, I didn't really see the news that already there was a big problem, because it didn't impact on me,” he said.
“The life that I was living: I was interested in racing, interested in success. And really then a couple of things happened in my life.
“I chose, together with my wife, to become a father. At 26 years old, our first daughter was born; the year after our second daughter was born. Then the year after that, my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, [and] passed away one-and-a-half years later.
“So at the same time, I'm confronted with the future: seeing my children, holding my children in my arms for the very first time. And, at the same time, being confronted with death, the end of life. It really made me reflect on my life, and the future that is ahead of us, and the world we live in.”
Vettel said that stepping back and understanding the opportunity he had to help influence change made him decide to take action.
“I really thought, how can I use the voice that I have to try and address things that are really important for all of us and looking at our world, and our climate?
“I think the world is rapidly changing. And it requires us all to consider what we can do. So I started to reflect on things that I can do, on my side, to be less part of the problem, and maybe here and there be more part of the solution, obviously, looking at the big gains.
“How do I travel from race to race? Because of time efficiency and because of comfort, obviously, you sort of fall into this, traveling with private jets around the world, etc. I stopped that completely. And I start feeling good about it.
“I started to question my nutrition, what do I eat? Where does the food come from? I started to think: where do I get my energy from? How do I consume? Which clothes am I buying? There's many, many things.”
Vettel said he took it upon himself to try to get other drivers involved, as well as encourage the public to make change.
“I really tried to speak also to the other drivers to emphasise that we are in this unique position to have an impact on our planet's climate,” he said.
“We are backs to the wall, it's time to change, it's time to reconsider our actions. We must obviously think of future generations going forward.”
He added: “We can't afford to look away anymore. We have to implement certain changes in our lives and everybody's lives and ask ourselves, and that's why I phrased it as an invitation. What can we do? What can you do? It starts with very small things. It starts with big things, obviously.
“Us, as drivers, we have a huge position to inspire people, to impact on people. But everyday actions I think matter, whether you choose to pick up a piece of plastic, a plastic bottle that you see when you go for a walk. Whatever it is, small things make a difference. And that's really the idea behind the shirt, and the invitation to just make people aware that every little bit matters.
“And also the other drivers, that we really have a responsibility that we share in the future to hopefully make this world a better place and protect our future.”