Sebastian Vettel ‘wouldn’t regret it’ if environmental stance made him slower F1 driver

Thomas Maher
Moody picture of Sebastian Vettel.

Moody picture of Sebastian Vettel.

Sebastian Vettel doubts his stance on environmental concerns made him slower on track, but “wouldn’t regret it” if it had.

Sebastian Vettel was in attendance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK over the weekend, driving a Nigel Mansell 1992 Williams FW14B and an Ayrton Senna 1993 McLaren MP4/8 up the famous hill.

The cars are owned directly by Vettel, and were driven using a sustainable carbon-neutral fuel. During Vettel’s final years in F1, the four-time World Champion became increasingly involved in raising awareness of climate change and environmental issues, and has chosen to highlight his “Race with a Trace” initiative by running his cars up the hill using the synthetic fuels.

Did environmental awareness affect Sebastian Vettel’s speed?

Vettel finding his voice to raise awareness of the issues close to his heart coincided roughly with his downturn in form as a consistently front-running Formula 1 driver.

In his final years at Ferrari, Vettel struggled to contain the inexperienced Charles Leclerc and, while there were flashes of brilliance from the German as he switched to Aston Martin for his final two years in the sport, the same relentless speed that had been his trademark during his championship years was not on display.

Appearing at a media briefing on Sunday at Goodwood, Vettel was asked about his journey from being a young F1 driver only concerned with winning to an environmentally conscious person fully aware of the world outside of the motorsport sphere, and when he first gained an interest in pursuing more knowledge on the matters close to his heart.

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

“Well, I would say probably not early enough,” he told media, including PlanetF1.com.

“I think it was probably something that I heard about when I was younger.

“Obviously, the problem was already there. But it’s probably something that, nowadays, everybody has heard about and we are finding out that we can’t outrun it or run away from it.”

Asked whether his beliefs had had any impact on his abilities on the racetrack, Vettel wasn’t certain, but said he wouldn’t have changed anything even if it had.

“Whether it impacted on my performance, I don’t know, it’s hard to tell,” he said.

“It’s always hard to measure in racing, but I would probably say no. If it did, then I wouldn’t regret it because I think there are obviously problems in this world that are far bigger than a certain lap time and a position on the day.

“Even though racing is my life and, on the day, there’s probably nothing more important to me but, to all of us and to our planet, I think they are of far bigger interest than whether I qualify a little bit higher up or a little bit lower.

“So I think putting things in perspective, what happens on the racetrack or what happens in Formula 1 is probably not important at all.

“I really do care about motorsport, it has fulfilled me in my life. I see a lot of young kids growing up and having the sparkle in their eye looking forward to racing, maybe a career in racing. And it would be a shame if they don’t get the same chances.

“But it will be very different, the world that they grew up in, I think it’s already different today and it will be very different in the future.

“So in some regards, you could say it is already unfair. But it’s about taking action, and making all of us aware that we all do take action to a degree that we can – I mean, not everybody will be able to make changes, not everybody’s the Prime Minister and will be able to make changes that have a huge impact. But we can all do changes that have maybe a small impact, and there’s a lot of us.

“So a lot of small impacts turn out to be a big impact.”

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Sebastian Vettel: Sustainable fuel idea shows we can do it “in a better way”

Speaking about his runs in the McLaren and the Williams, Vettel said that spectators won’t be able to tell the difference between the cars running on their sustainable fuel versus the original petrol that they would have ran on 30 years ago.

It’s in this fact that the German maintains proves that alternatives are there for fossil fuel usage, even if the costs are still currently too high as synthetic fuels remain in their infancy.

“The main idea is to demonstrate that you can have fun, but you can have it in a more responsible way,” he said.

“I think the world is changing, it is something that maybe not everybody has understood yet to a full degree, but I think it is happening and it will be happening more and more of it.

“Obviously, I love motorsport, and I would love motorsport to continue – it would be a shame if Goodwood was to disappear as an event, if Formula 1 was to disappear. I think it is a threat, it might be far away for a lot of people now today but, as I said, the world is changing.

“So the actual idea is to demonstrate that we can do it in a different way. I will have two old cars, they’re my car, and they will be sounding just like they did back in 1992 and ’93. I think it will be just as thrilling.

“I had the chance last year during the British Grand Prix, 30 years after Nigel Mansell won in Silverstone to run the exact same car, which was great. I think the crowd loved it. And 30 years after Ayrton drove the McLaren, I will be driving it up the hill. They are very special cars. I think a lot of memories for a lot of visitors, maybe not so much for the younger audience!

“But I think they will be thrilled when they see the car, because they’re beautiful, and they sound beautiful. The main idea is to showcase that we can do it in a better way. It is an alternative.

“It might not be the full answer and the answer, but I think it’s definitely heading in that direction. The idea is obviously that you have fuels made in the laboratory synthetically, rather than pumping oil out of the ground to make fuel.

“A lot of people don’t know that it exists. A lot of people don’t know that, for racing and for motorsport, it’s probably inevitable to do the switch. Otherwise, all these cars will disappear one day. And that will be a shame.”

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