Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel says the global climate crisis has made him question whether he should continue racing in Formula 1.
Appearing on the BBC’s Question Time – a topical debate panel program similar to Australia’s Q+A – the Aston Martin driver admitted his mind is often exercised by Formula 1’s contribution to climate change.
A strong advocate for environmental initiatives within the paddock, Vettel has become increasingly outspoken on social and environmental issues throughout his 15-year career.
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At last week’s Miami Grand Prix launch party, the 34-year-old swapped his team gear for a bold T-shirt encouraging action on global warming.
“Miami 2060. 1st grand prix under water. Act now or swim later,” it read.
The shirt also featured an image of a submerged driver’s helmet with a snorkel coming out of it, drawing attention to Miami’s vulnerability to ensuing rising sea levels.
Due to his strong feelings on environmental matters, it is often asked of Vettel whether being a Formula 1 driver is compatible with his activism, to which he admitted there was an obvious inner conflict.
“It does [make me a hypocrite],” he said, to laughs from the Question Time audience.
“You’re right when you laugh because these are questions I ask myself every day.
“I’m not a saint. I’m very concerned when it comes to the future, when it comes to energy, energy dependence and where we go in the future.
“Certain things are in my control and certain things are not.
“It’s my passion to drive a car. Every time I step in the car I love it.
“When I get out of the car of course I’m thinking as well, ‘Is this something that you should do — travel the world, wasting resources?'”
Vettel, who was snapped taking public transport with the general public on Thursday, said he actively takes steps to reduce his personal carbon footprint when he can.
“There are a lot of these questions I ask myself,” he said.
“There are things that I do because I feel I can do them better. Do I take a plane every time? No, not when I can take the car.”
However, ultimately the biggest decisions needed to be made by governments.
“On energy, we need to stop being dependent [on fossil fuels], and we can, because there are solutions in place.
“You know, in Britain, you have this sort of goldmine you’re sitting on, which is wind, and you have the ability to increase your energy supply with wind power, solar.
“Every country has its strengths and weaknesses.”
In 2019, Formula 1 set a target for net-zero emissions by 2030, including all events and team operations.
When it launched its sustainability plan, the circuit estimated its CO2 emissions at 256,551 tonnes. Almost three-quarters of that came from worldwide transport and logistics.
The cars themselves contribute just 0.7 per cent to its total emissions through their hybrid power unit, achieving more than 50 per cent thermal efficiency, up from around 30 per cent efficiency for the standard consumer motor.
This year the sport introduced E10 fuel to further lower car emissions, and in 2026 it plans to mandate fully synthetic, carbon-neutral fuel. It will also double the amount of power generated by its electrical motors.
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