Sebastian Vettel fears worldwide government bans on F1 and motorsport

Oliver Harden
Sebastian Vettel waving. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, waves from Parc Ferme after Qualifying. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Sebastian Vettel has warned that F1’s very future will be at risk if governments around the world start banning motorsport to combat climate change.

The four-time World Champion, who brought the curtain down at the end of his glittering F1 career at the end of the 2022 season, has become a passionate campaigner on environmental issues in recent years.

Vettel appeared on Sunday at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed event, where he took part in demonstration runs in historic cars – Nigel Mansell’s title-winning Williams FW14B of 1992 and Ayrton Senna’s 1993 McLaren MP4/8 – on sustainable fuels as part of his Race Without Trace initiative.

Sebastian Vettel seriously worried about F1’s future

F1 was forced to cancel the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in May following severe rain in the Imola region, with last month’s Canadian GP also briefly coming under threat due to forest fires.

And after Goodwood organisers were left with no option but to cancel Saturday’s celebrations due to strong winds, Vettel fears F1 and motorsport will be targeted by government measures to combat climate change.

He told media including PlanetF1.com’s Sam Cooper at Goodwood: “Imola got cancelled. Obviously, yesterday, the event got cancelled. I think there is a direct relation between extreme weathers and the changing world, the warming world.

“So I think, provided you are not completely looking away, I think you see the climate crisis has an impact on a lot of people already today, a lot of places around the world. You mentioned Imola that got cancelled, obviously you had a massive drought in Italy and then all of a sudden seemingly never-ending rain and obviously the rain couldn’t get into the ground, so it was just pushed to the next place and obviously collected in a place like Imola and causing massive floods.

“You had the race in Miami this year. That was a threat, because two or three weeks prior, again, it was flooded, and the actual track was underwater, so the race could have been cancelled if it happened three weeks [earlier].

“You had the fight forest fires in Canada, which, different winds lasting a bit longer, probably Montreal would have been kicked off the calendar.

“So it is a real threat. It might be the next year, none of the races is [under] threat, but that’s not how it works. You need to recognise that the world is changing and it does have an impact on our lives. And it’s not so much I think that the threat or risk that people that might glue themselves onto the track on a race race day or maybe at Goodwood.

“I think it’s more a threat that at some point governments will be looking at things that they can cut and ban and maybe motorsport is a threat and might be one of them. That’s how far I’m thinking.

“And I don’t want that to happen, to be clear, because I think it’s a great sport. You will see a lot of people turning up today, loving to be here, having a blast, so it will be a shame if we would lose that because we just simply can’t afford it anymore.

“When you look at something maybe as boring as a carbon budget and you just say: OK, well, these sort of events fall off first.'”

Asked if the whole concept of a World Championship, with competitors flying by plane to different locations around the world, was at risk, Vettel argued that the burden should not have to fall on athletes alone to influence change.

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And he called for attitudes to alternative solutions to alter, insisting a greener future does not have to be a worse future.

He explained: “It’s not just for racing, motorsport – it’s for any sport really. I think a lot of tennis players have been asked the question whether it’s responsible to fly around the world just to play tennis.

“I don’t think it’s fair in a way. It is our responsibility as athletes, but it’s not us alone that can make the difference. I think the point is that there is alternatives.

“I don’t think getting rid of World Championships is the answer and stopping everything is the answer because first I’m convinced it won’t work and people won’t do it and, second, it would be a shame. So it’s about finding alternatives and many times the alternatives are already in place, we just need to switch and be brave enough to look forward to a brighter future and don’t think that change will always be putting us in a worse place.

“I think if you look at it as not talking about World Championships, if you look at cities and cities of the future, I think they will be a better place. Imagine less pollution in the air, less noise, less cars driving around – I think that’s a good thing.

“Think of London: it’s so busy. If it was less busy, and there would be more place for people to walk, to cycle, more green – I think it would be a nicer London compared to today. It will be a lot less polluted, less dirty, a lot more comfortable.

“So I think we need to start looking into the future, imagining that it’s going to be a good place and not different to today and therefore a threat and holding on to what we have and not daring to do the steps.

“So if you’re talking about World Championships, I think we should have them in the future, we should have events around the globe to show these beautiful sights that we have and bring sports to different places – but do it in a responsible way and not in a harmful way.”

F1 has stressed its desire to achieve Net Zero by 2030, but Vettel fears the sport is not serious enough about the cause to achieve its target.

He said: “It’s set as a goal so I think you have to do everything to achieve that goal. If you fail, you need to explain and so on. So I think that it’s nice to put up a slogan, but what does it mean if you don’t stick to it and if you don’t take it serious?

“I can make a lot of claims, but how serious am I if I then turn around and say I didn’t make it? So I think it is very serious and I think it should [receive] all the effort possible to put in, all the money that it takes – let’s be honest – to invest to make it happen.

“But Stefano [Domenicali, Formula 1 chief executive] is probably a better person to ask because he’s in charge and well aware of where they are standing today.”

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