Four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel is appearing on Question Time, but what are his environmental credentials as he joins the panel?
On the face of it, a racing driver who creates a huge carbon footprint – and has spent the last 15 years globe-trotting around the world to race in F1 is probably not the first person you’d think of to be an environmental campaigner.
It’s a fair point and question to put to Sebastian Vettel.
After all, why should people do what he says when in the eyes of some, he is part of the problem – a member of the global elite who contribute to producing vast quantities of carbon dioxide and then spout virtues about wanting to protect the environment?
But Sebastian Vettel is no ordinary racing driver – and has taken steps to address his own carbon footprint and impact on the environment.
As he appears on the BBC One political talk show Question Time in Hackney on Thursday, 12th May, what are Sebastian Vettel’s environmental credentials?
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Sebastian Vettel to appear on Question Time
First things first, there are a couple of reasons Sebastian Vettel is on Question Time: to talk about the environment and LGBT rights.
Although he will be well-briefed, he will not be well-versed in current political events in the UK – such as Partygate or the Queen’s Speech which took place on Tuesday 10th May – although an outsider’s view might not be the worst idea.
For evidence of Vettel’s genuine care for the environment and taking care of the planet, we only need to go back to the Miami Grand Prix weekend of May 6-8th.
The 53-time grand prix winner turned up to F1’s flashy new event wearing a t-shirt saying predicting the first underwater grand prix.
Such are rising sea levels, that Miami is predicted to be underwater completely within 50 years if the rise continues at the current rate.
Given the importance of the Miami Grand Prix to F1, it was no coincidence that elder statesman Vettel decided to draw attention to this on that weekend.
It is just the latest step Vettel has taken to raise awareness of the environment.
How Sebastian Vettel himself has helped the environment
Wherever he can, Vettel eschews travelling by plane to grands prix, often getting there by train, especially those races in Europe – as it’s quite hard to get the train to Australia or Brazil – to cut down his carbon footprint.
The German genuinely cares about the environment, and is not just jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of it.
For example, in the first COVID-19 lockdown when the F1 season was delayed from March 2020 to July 2020, Vettel completed an internship in bio-farming.
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Ahead of the Austrian GP in 2021, he visited a school and helped create a ‘bee hotel,’ with local children.
Moreover, at the British GP, he spent time after the race, in his own time cleaning the grandstands of plastic rubbish in an attempt to ensure it was all recycled.
“I think the first priority is always to make it credible for me, that it does make sense,” he said in 2021.
“It’s great to say what we should do and talk about it, but I think you need to do it as well yourself,” sending a message to any critics who would put that to him.
“I think we can still get the same out of our lives,” he added.
“But [we can] get a much better way for all of us, which is ultimately the environment.”
Why it is crucial Vettel uses the platform he’s got
As a veteran of 282 grand prix starts, 53 wins, four world titles and 15 years in the series, as of the 2022 Miami Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel’s voice carries a lot of weight, not just in F1, but in sport.
With old mucker Lewis Hamilton, the two are increasingly driving awareness of the environment and LGBT rights – including wearing rainbow t-shirts before races and actively speaking out about such issues.
F1 itself is aiming to become carbon net zero by 2030 – and is increasingly turning to sustainable fuels – with E10 fuel mandated in 2021.
Single use plastics have been banned, and all waste on-site at grands prix will be recycled, reused or composted.
For both Vettel, and indeed Hamilton, by 2030, they will have both long hung up their helmets – at 43 and 45 years old, respectively.
But at least they are leading the conversation and getting people debating the issue of the environment and climate change and how everyone has a part to play.
By going on Question Time, and putting himself in a position to be openly challenged and questioned, Sebastian Vettel is leading by example – and for that he should be commended.
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