The double world champion could easily have gone into hiding after his car sustained a right-rear puncture just two corners into the 55-lap Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Instead, after making his way back to the garage where a damaged suspension ended his run of 19 consecutive races in the points, Vettel opted to stay with the team and increase his knowledge.
Horner said: "Of course he was disappointed, but he didn't rush to leave the circuit. He decided to hang around to help the team.
"So he joined us on the pitwall to try and offer us the benefit of his experience, what he would be feeling, to help Mark's (Webber) strategy, and for him to get the best result possible.
"He was interested to see the pitwall because he is never in a situation where he can hear the strategy unfolding and how a race operates.
"What he did is part of who he is. He's like a sponge for information, and it also demonstrates what a team player he is."
The retirement has denied Vettel the opportunity to at least equal two Formula One records, falling five short of Michael Schumacher's run of 24 successive results in the points, and unable to now match the seven times champion's 13 race wins in a single season.
Naturally, heading into the final race of what has been a stunning campaign in Brazil later this month, there is the obvious desire to bow out victoriously.
"It's just a good job what happened yesterday didn't happen last year," added Horner, with reference to Vettel clinching his first title with a win in Abu Dhabi last November.
"The whole team were frustrated because we were in a great position to win the race, in particular after Sebastian did a superb job on Saturday, one of the best laps of his career to nail that pole.
"Then he did everything right at the start, got comfortably into the lead, only then for cruel luck to force him to retire the way he did.
"Now he's determined to finish the season on a high, and I'm sure we'll bounce back in two weeks in Brazil."