In terms of sport, the former Formula 1 World Champion is also chasing the competition this season. When it comes to environmental protection, sexism, or racism, Sebastian Vettel leads the way and causes a stir – and criticism.
The smell of petrol, roaring engines, and cars driving in circles at almost 300 km/h: the Formula 1 circus is back on the road. And the next stop will be the Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend, where the French Grand Prix will be decided. With thousands of spectators cheering, ten teams will again try to score as many championship points as possible. And again, Formula 1 will blow countless tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In 2019 – the last season before Corona – a total of 256,551 tons of the polluting gas were released as part of the racing series.
However, only just under one percent (0.7 percent) is attributable to the emissions from racing cars that are on the road at weekends during races, training sessions, and test drives. That is “only” 1795.8 tons of carbon dioxide – per season. According to a study on the sustainability strategy that Formula 1 published in 2019, logistics (45 percent) and travel by employees (27.7 percent) who work for Formula 1 teams account for the largest share. For comparison: the footprint of a football World Cup is significantly larger. The 2018 World Cup in Russia even caused around 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide.
“Save the bees”
It is not surprising that Formula 1 is still not the cleanest sport. That one of their best drivers attracts attention week after week with campaigns for more environmental protection, but it is. Sebastian Vettel has shown time and again in recent races that nature conservation is very important to him. He recently drew attention to the death of bees with his helmet design at the Austrian Grand Prix. “Save the bees – there is still a race to win” read on it. The 35-year-old is involved in a project that aims to protect these insects.
A few weeks earlier, he drew attention to the environmentally harmful mining of tar sand in Canada. “It’s a horror for nature. Something like that shouldn’t be allowed,” said Vettel. However, according to rumors, the FIA and his team advised him not to wear the specially designed helmet during the race. In Miami, he wore a T-shirt warning of Florida’s demise as the poles melted and flooding threatened. In Baku, he wore his clothes to promote peace in Ukraine in the paddock. And during Friday’s free practice, he wore a T-shirt that read “Every day is a Friday for the Future.”
Vettel: “I think there should be zero tolerance”
Vettel has always been uncomfortable. And he currently seems almost more like an activist than a Formula 1 driver. With his actions, he not only makes friends in the racing circuit. “I’m not exactly the most popular driver in the eyes of the Formula 1 organization,” said the four-time Formula 1 world champion. “But nobody can tell me what I have to say or not to say, even if people don’t like to see what I say.”
Vettel is aware of his status and public reach. Even with the racism scandal during the Grand Prix in Spielberg two weeks ago, the Formula 1 driver did not mince his words and clearly condemned the incidents. “Whoever these people are, they should be ashamed and banned from racing for life,” Vettel said. “I think there should be zero tolerance.”
End of career after this season?
In terms of sport, on the other hand, Vettel hasn’t made it onto the front pages since he left Red Bull, where he was world champion four times. The 35-year-old has not been able to build on his past successes either at Ferrari or at his current racing team Aston Martin. No wonder that there is even speculation about a career end after the current season. Vettel’s contract expires. It is questionable whether the working paper will be extended again.
Aston Martin’s new contract with the powerful state fund from Saudi Arabia could also be decisive. The British racing team wants to use the fresh money to pay off its debts. But how does Vettel react to the new cooperation? At last year’s race in Saudi Arabia, he organized the Race4Women in Jeddah, where only women and girls were allowed to start. He also criticized the human rights situation in the desert state. “Some things are not as they should be.” What impact the new deal will have on Vettel’s career remains open.
Vettel: “Then I’m just a hypocrite”
With all the commitment of the racing driver but a bland aftertaste remains. After all, Vettel is part of a racing series that wants to become “climate-neutral” by 2030, but is currently still causing thousands of tons of carbon dioxide. Sonya Savage, the environment minister for the Canadian province of Alberta, recently accused him of hypocrisy via Twitter: he should rather pay attention to his own CO2 footprint, the politician wrote on the sidelines of the Canadian Grand Prix.
Vettel is aware of his ambivalent situation but emphasizes: “This is not about me as a racing driver. It’s about a much bigger picture.” In addition, the 35-year-old has never denied that his situation as a Formula 1 driver and activist could also be considered hypocritical. “Then I’m just a hypocrite if I’m doing a job that I love, but at the same time pointing out environmental concerns. We are all driven by different passions. I will not bow down,” he said, adding: “I’m no saint. It’s not my job to tell people what to do. But I do as much as I can control for myself.”
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