Vettel was leading the race with 11 laps remaining when he ground to a halt exiting Vale.
"Obviously it’s quite disappointing to retire when we were only a few laps from the end," he said.
"We had a gearbox issue, I think fifth gear broke and damaged the rest of the gearbox as well, so it was not possible to carry on. It’s a shame because we were in a good position and it’s a nice race to win here, so yeah I guess we have to come back next year and try again. It’s good that it’s only a short time until the next race."
Team principal Christian Horner admitted that it was a 'painful' way to end the race.
"Obviously to get within 12 laps of winning the race and have a retirement due to a transmission issue is pretty painful, particularly at this venue, but Sebastian had done everything right today and it was a great shame," he said.